To the Editor:
I beg to differ with Jill Goldthwait’s March 16 column: “Port authority and home rule.” The governor was right to veto the currently proposed bill to create a Bar Harbor port authority. It is the wrong bill at the wrong time.
LD 1400 was drawn up to provide independent funding and management of a $40 million, one-quarter to one-half-mile-long pier to berth two 20-plus story mega cruise ships. Since then, the town’s citizens’ advisory committee has recommended, and the town council has accepted, the concept of a town-owned public multi-use marina for the old ferry terminal property.
The Town Council has asked its contracted advisers to present a plan for the purchase, development and management of such a marina. Until that is in-hand and approved, the state Legislature does not have enough facts to decide whether or not it is necessary and appropriate for the state to authorize the opportunity to create a local port authority, much less how that authority should be constituted. Nor do the voters of Bar Harbor have enough facts to allow an informed vote as to whether or not they should retain ownership and control of the property or cede it to a board which they elect but over which they have no immediate control.
Responsibility for funding the project is not an issue. Both a port authority and the town itself can issue revenue bonds which are not backed by the taxpayers of Bar Harbor but by revenue from the project: user and landing fees, passenger fees, etc.
Once the plan for the site is presented and approved, and once the necessary independent feasibility studies (economic, financial, environmental, etc) have been done, then the council and the voters can decide what they want to build, how they want to finance and manage it, and whether or not they need a port authority to help them do so. If they decide it is necessary, they can then ask the state Legislature to offer a port authority bill that is appropriate for the plan.
Goldthwait is correct that legally it is up to the local voters to decide. But they should be asked to vote for or against the right bill at the right time.
Ann Michelson Hirschhorn