BAR HARBOR — The company planning to operate ferry service between Bar Harbor and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia now holds a lease to a portion of the town-owned ferry terminal property on Eden Street.
The lease between the town and Atlantic Fleet Services, the local affiliate of private Canadian firm Bay Ferries, was signed Tuesday, according to town manager Cornell Knight.
According to a statement issued by Bay Ferries on Feb. 19, “the base term of the lease is five years with guaranteed minimum annual rent of $264,000 CDN (based on a $1.32 exchange rate).”
Demolition of some of the structures on the property began in January. But new construction requires approval from the town’s planning board. A public hearing is planned for Feb. 27 on the site plan application for renovation of the existing ferry terminal facility to meet current U.S. Customs and Border Protection standards.
That work includes repairs to the pier and the installation of a bridge section next to the pier, as well as the demolition of the existing outside Customs area and a rebuilding of a Customs plaza incorporating equipment required by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP).
“Bay Ferries is very grateful for the cooperation of USCBP in assisting with the advancement of this project on a much accelerated timetable,” the statement stated.
Some groups in Canada have expressed concern about the cost of the renovations, since the Province of Nova Scotia has a 10-year agreement with Bay Ferries for operation of a Maine/Nova Scotia ferry, which includes some public subsidy for the service.
The province “is responsible for funding the costs associated with the ferry service-related projects… including the costs of upgrading the Bar Harbor ferry terminal property,” a Jan. 22 letter from provincial officials to the Bar Harbor Planning Board says.
The company anticipates ticket sales to begin on Feb. 25, with marketing campaigns increasing through the late winter and spring.
The signing of the lease marks Bay Ferries’ return to Bar Harbor, where the company operated between 1997 and 2009. Prior to that, the Bluenose Ferry operated an international ferry service dating back to 1956.
Last June, Bar Harbor voters authorized the purchase of the ferry terminal from the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) for $3.5 million. The town closed on the purchase of the property Jan. 31.
Prior to that, in October, town council voted to enter the five-year lease agreement that was signed Tuesday.