Town to buy ferry terminal for $3.5 million

BAR HARBOR — The town will exercise the option agreement to purchase the abandoned ferry terminal property on Eden Street from the Maine Department of Transportation for $3.5 million, following a unanimous Town Council vote Tuesday. Residents attending the meeting greeted the decision with applause.

A bond issue for the $3.5 million will go to voters at the 2018 town meeting.

Prior to the vote, Ruth Eveland and Elizabeth Swain of the ferry terminal property advisory committee described the matrix decision tool that the 40-member council used to compare possible plans for the property.

“I’m sure that you’re all aware that the members of the committee have put in phenomenal hours,” Eveland said. “I think it’s pretty clear what we are recommending.”

The recommendation, finalized on Nov. 14, called for “a multi-use marine facility with option tender boat landings from cruise ships” and a transportation hub at the property. The $3.5 million no-strings-attached purchase price, the group said, was preferable to the $2 million or $2.5 million offered by the DOT with some conditions and restrictions.

Councilor Matt Hochman thanked the committee for its work.

“It was really nice to see a large group of our citizens come together and work really hard to get a common sense solution,” he said. “You put in a lot of hard work, and I think it shows in the report and matrix.”

After accepting the recommendation, the next order of business was to decide which purchase price terms the town would choose.

An amendment to the option agreement that would have protected the town from losing money in case of a “clawback” of the property was approved by the council but never signed by the DOT. The absence of this amendment, according to Town Manager Cornell Knight, bolstered the argument for the $3.5 million option.

“I recommend the $3.5 million price,” Knight said. “I don’t think it is worth the risk to purchase for a lower price and be forced to have a marine transportation use within five years.”

The bond issue for the project would span 20 years and have annual payments of $247,000, Knight said. Finance Director Stan Harmon said that that length was good for the market.

“Twenty-year bonds are what the market likes best,” Harmon said. “If you try to get payments down on a 30-year bond, you just pay it back in interest.”

Councilor Paul Paradis asked for public comment, but no one in attendance spoke. Councilor Gary Friedmann said that was a sign that the recommendation process had been thorough.

“When something really matters in this town, people will come out,” Friedmann said. “When you come to a meeting and you don’t have to speak, [that’s] because you know you have been heard.”

The council voted unanimously to authorize Knight to deliver the town’s “written intent” to proceed with the purchase.

Paradis said that, like the Route 3 reconstruction project, this is just the first step in a longer process.

“There’s a few steps to go, so please don’t get discouraged,” Paradis said. “Hopefully, in the end, we’ll have something to be proud of.”

The committee’s report goes next to consultants Bermello and Ajamil for a review and a business plan.

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd is a University of Maine graduate and a former Bar Harbor reporter for the Mount Desert Islander.
Samuel Shepherd

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