Will it or won’t it? That question is on the minds of many people these days. Will “The Cat” – the ferry between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia remain in Portland Harbor in the future?
Despite a banner season this year, Bay Ferries is considering moving its high-speed ferry service out of Portland. In October, the Bar Harbor town manager signed a contract with Bay Ferries permitting that to happen. Then the Bar Harbor Town Council voted unanimously to lease the unused pier to Bay Ferries. There was no deadline attached to that contract in which to make a definitive commitment.
However, the city of Portland has attached a deadline in which Bay Ferries needs to come up with a decision. Will it or won’t it? The deadline has been extended to January 1, 2019 by Portland. Repeating, the need for the time extension is because Bay Ferries is negotiating with the US Customs Service and working out details on the restoration of the pier that has been out-of-use for years. The extension by Portland follows on the heels of several previous extension deadlines including the most recent – November 30, 2018.
Whatever Bay Ferries decides to do – to stay or to go – it will leave behind an as yet unresolved lawsuit. It is expected not to be resolved until sometime early next year at the soonest.
Bay Ferries filed a lawsuit against the Board of Harbor Commissioners and the Portland Pilots, a Harbor monopoly, for its illegal and excessive increase (around 70% originally) for the required by state statute piloting service to and out of Portland Harbor. The Board never notified Bay Ferries of the meeting to discuss the rate increase so they could attend. In May of 2017, the Board voted the excessive increase without the presence of Bay Ferries representation.
On June 1st, Judge Lance Walker of the Maine Superior Court ruled against the Board of Harbor Commissioners for imposing “excessive and unjustified fee increases on The Cat. That’s because the Portland Pilots failed to provide sufficient evidence that the pilotage fees it imposed on the ferry were not justified. The Portland Pilots were not compelled by the Board of Commissioners to release income data to determine whether this high increase was fair and reasonable….” the Judge wrote in his 11 page document that basically shredded any arguments that the Portland Pilots attorney, Twain Braden tried to make on the PIlots behalf.
Then on June 15, 2018, a city attorney representing the Board of Commissioners, Jenn Thompson, filed a document that the higher fee imposed by the Board be continued, until an appeal filed by the Portland Pilots is resolved. Oral arguments on the appeal of the Pirates is not expected until mid-February.
Some readers may recall that out-going Governor Paul LePage wrote a letter to each member of the Board of Commissioners earlier this year telling them to resign because of their “anti- business” attitude. None of them did resign. The letter was first reported herein on January 5, 2018 and picked up by other news outlets.
Although, the “Portland Press Herald,” the city’s mouthpiece, has written about The Cat’s future plans, it has been mum on the legal relationship between the city of Portland and The Cat.
munjoyhillnews.com has covered the lawsuit in numerous posts herein: Some of the pieces include, but are not limited to: June 5, 2018, June 28, 2018, June 29, 2018, January 17, 2018. There are more.