BAR HARBOR, Maine - Town officials have learned how they’ll be able to spend $490,000 the town is receiving from Department of Homeland Security for improved port security.
They had applied for up to $1.2 million in federal port security funding and in May learned it would receive approximately $490,000. It wasn’ t until recently, however, that the town was informed what specifically the federal money could be used for, police Chief Nate Young said Friday.
According to Young, the town can use the federal money only to purchase equipment. He said representatives with the U.S. Coast Guard recently told town officials that the federal agency would fund the town’ s purchase of a boat, self-contained breathing units, a radio frequency-based data network system, and new cruiser laptops, among other items.
Young said that, in keeping with the town’ s original grant application, it could spend up to $250,000 on a boat, but that the town is more likely to buy a less expensive vessel. “We’ re not interested in spending $250,000 on a boat,” Young said.
The town will have a certain amount of flexibility in how it spends the money, he said, meaning it could spend less on a boat and more on other equipment on the approved list.
“It gives us everything we asked for,” he said. “What it doesn’ t give us is construction money.”
Construction needs that the town has discussed for improving port security include a larger harbormaster’ s office, new dock floats, an emergency operations center away from the public safety building, and a renovated fire and police dispatch area, town officials have said.
Young said the town would have to provide a 25 percent match to receive the grant, meaning it will have $655,728 overall to put toward the security improvement projects. The town is coming up with $163,932 and the federal department with $491,796, he said.
He said he is not sure where the town funds will come from. The council voted last week to increase the fees cruise ships pay to anchor in Frenchman Bay and bring their passengers ashore, which could help the town raise money for its match, he said, but there also might be municipal capital reserve funds that could be used.
“That’ s an example of how to do it,” Young said of the increased cruise ships fees.
The council voted June 15 to raise cruise ships fees, starting next year, according to the police chief. The town currently charges $1,750 per ship per visit, but Young said it will change to a fee schedule that basically charges each ship $4 per passenger. Under the schedule approved June 15, fee totals could range from a couple hundred dollars for small ships that tie up to the town pier to more than $7,000 for larger ships.
The type of security vessel the town hopes to acquire is a rigid-hull inflatable boat that would be available to the local police, fire, and harbormaster departments in the event of an emergency or other port security needs, according to the town’ s grant application documents.
A radio frequency-based data network system, according to Young, would prevent the town from the added, long-term cost of having to pay a cellular communications company for the same system. The estimated total cost of this network, including the compatible laptops, would be about $89,000, the grant documents indicate.
Twenty self-contained breathing devices would cost about $111,000, while a compressor system to fill the breathing tanks with air would cost an additional $36,500.
Bar Harbor is one of the busiest ports in Maine during the summer season because of the number of cruise ships and other tourism-related vessels that dock and weigh anchor in the harbor. This summer, more than 100 large cruise ships are expected to visit Bar Harbor, which could bring as many as 150,000 cruise ship passengers into town by the end of October.