Cat ferry’s po­ten­tial move hits “a snag”

Town of Bar Har­bor not yet able to fi­nal­ize pur­chase agree­ment for ter­mi­nal prop­erty


A po­ten­tial move of The Cat ferry from Port­land, Maine to Bar Har­bor has hit “a snag,” ne­ces­si­tat­ing a de­lay in the process of mak­ing a fi­nal de­ci­sion on where the ferry will sail to and from next year.

Bar Har­bor’s town man­ager Cor­nell Knight told Bar Har­bor coun­cil last week that Gov­er­nor Paul LePage is re­fus­ing to sign the deed for the pur­chase of the for­mer ferry ter­mi­nal prop­erty un­less there is a slight change to word­ing of a sec­tion con­tained in the doc­u­ment.

Bay Fer­ries is eye­ing the ter­mi­nal prop­erty as a po­ten­tial port to sail the Cat ferry in and out of next sea­son, feel­ing the move will save the com­pany money due to a shorter sail­ing dis­tance and will al­low it to tap into what it feels is a ro­bust tourism mar­ket.

In Septem­ber the town of Bar Har­bor signed a pur­chase and sale agree­ment with the Maine Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion (MDOT) to pur­chase the ter­mi­nal prop­erty for $3.5 mil­lion. The un­der­stand­ing then was the town would pur­chase the prop­erty with no fur­ther strings at­tached from MDOT.

Knight re­ported to coun­cil on Nov. 28 that at that time both sides had agreed to the agree­ment.

But now there is some dis­agree­ment.

“The week be­fore last the out­side coun­sel pre­par­ing the doc­u­ments for clos­ing con­tacted our at­tor­ney and said there’s been a snag with the deed and he needed to talk to our at­tor­ney about agree­ing to the lan­guage,” Knight told coun­cil.

He said the gov­er­nor’s of­fice is ask­ing that the lan­guage in a par­tic­u­lar pas­sage of the deed be changed to in­clude the words “in­clud­ing mu­nic­i­pal zon­ing re­quire­ments in ef­fect on the date of this con­veyance.” Knight said the town’s at­tor­ney isn’t sure why the change is re­quired or what im­pact the lan­guage could have in the fu­ture.

As a re­sult of the dis­cus­sions – and now dis­agree­ment – now hap­pen­ing, the clos­ing date for the pur­chase of the prop­erty has been ex­tended. In­stead of Nov. 30, the clos­ing date will now be on or be­fore Jan. 31, 2019.

“We do have an ex­ten­sion in place and we’ll work on get­ting that re­solved,” said Knight.

In Oc­to­ber, Bar Har­bor town coun­cil voted unan­i­mously to au­tho­rize its town man­ager to sign a five-year lease that would al­low Bay Fer­ries to sail The Cat ferry to and from Bar Har­bor. But the town can­not sign that lease un­til its pur­chase of the ter­mi­nal prop­erty has been com­pleted.

Knight said last week that he had spo­ken with Bay Fer­ries and the com­pany is still work­ing through their due dili­gence – “as you know they’re still hav­ing some cus­toms and bor­der is­sues that they’re work­ing through,” he said.

He said the ferry op­er­a­tor, which sails to and from Yar­mouth, would like to work on an agree­ment that would al­low it to start some work, at their risk, on the prop­erty be­fore the town owns it.

“DOT seems agree­able to that, we’re just work­ing on the pa­per­work right now,” said Knight.

Coun­cil ap­peared aback by this “snag,” as things seemed to be smooth sail­ing on the pur­chase agree­ment front.

“I was kind of stunned that the gov­er­nor would kind of throw this wrench into the works at this late date, but it’s not out of line with what the gov­er­nor has been known to do,” said Bar Har­bor coun­cil chair Gary Fried­mann. “This was our only course of ac­tion, to ba­si­cally ex­tend the clos­ing un­til there’s a new gov­er­nor.”

“I think the big­gest is­sue now is it does make it more dif­fi­cult for Bay Fer­ries,” he said, adding it cre­ates less cer­tainty as the ferry op­er­a­tor is count­ing on the town own­ing the prop­erty.

Bay Fer­ries has not yet in­di­cated its fi­nal­ized plans for the 2019 sea­son to Port­land, where it has op­er­ated for the past three years, with last year be­ing its more suc­cess­ful sea­son yet as it trans­ported 50,185 pas­sen­gers.

Ini­tially Bay Fer­ries was go­ing to give its de­ci­sion to the city of Port­land by Nov. 15.

Jessica Grondin, a spokesper­son for the city, said on Mon­day that the dead­line for Bay Fer­ries had been moved back to Nov. 30 and has now been ex­tended to Dec. 31.


The ter­mi­nal prop­erty in Bar Har­bor.


The Cat ferry in Yar­mouth har­bour.

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