By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,725)
“My hands are tied for now,” said Phin Sprague, Jr., 65, Friday afternoon. “I can’t do anything until I get that check from the State of Maine.” The check he refers to is one due him that will allow him to realize his long-time goal of expanding his boat yard and marina that has been cramped into a small space at the Portland Company Complex a 58 Fore Street on the Munjoy Hill waterfront.
The check Sprague is waiting for is payment for the land that the State is taking from his already purchased property on West Commercial Street for New Yard. Sprague says the State MDOT has instituted a deadline which is April 1st. He expects to receive the check by that date, and that in mid-March, he will be informed of the amount the State will pay him. The State is taking a large chunk of Sprague’s 22 acres for the expansion of the International Marine Terminal in which Eimskip is located. (It’s land for which Sprague has already paid close to $1 million dollars in permitting costs).The already constructed 19,200 sq. ft. Building A on the property will remain where it is and not have to be moved. But according to subcontractors on the property recently, they stopped working on the property early this year when Sprague realized in what direction things were going.
Sprague has already had talks with David Fink, of Pan Am Railroad, about purchasing an additional 12 acres west of the Casco Bay Bridge to make up for the land he’s losing to the State. “They’ve been great. When they say they’ll do something they do it. When they say no, they mean it,” Sprague says of Pan Am. In October of 2012, Sprague learned that Eimskip was considering setting up shipping facilities in several places other than Portland. The others were Quonset, RI., Everett and Quincy, MA., and somewhere in Virginia. They approached Fink about Pan Am’s (former) property that Sprague had just purchased, about purchasing the same property. Fink and Sprague went to Iceland and made a pitch for them to consider Portland as well as other ports. Sprague would sell or lease directly to Eimskip. However, the State could provide benefits that Sprague can’t. Fink had agreed to sell Sprague an additional 12 acres west of the Bridge should Eimskip decided to come to Portland. Eimskip did and Sprague is happy about it.
But it forces Sprague to start from scratch. He’ll have to go before the planning board once again and the Harbor Commissioners as well where he ran into a wall of Tugboat Captains opposed to sharing their water with Sprague. It’ll take about 8 months to redesign the plans for the new 12 acres before Sprague can begin to get approvals again. Last fall, he purchased Gowen Marine whose business is commercial shipping boats, as a “protective move” until New Yard is fully up, running and making money.