CRANBERRY ISLES, Maine — Whether the town wants to subsidize a commuter ferry service that would enable island residents to get back and forth to jobs or high school classes on Mount Desert Island will be the major question facing voters at the annual town meeting, according to a local official.
Denise McCormick, town clerk for Cranberry Isles, said town officials have received a bid to provide the service for a year for $46,000, plus whatever fares it collects from passengers on each trip.
The Maine Department of Transportation has agreed to reimburse the town $11,000 if voters approve the service, which would make the town’s total contribution $35,000, according to McCormick. She said the town has explored the possibility of finding other outside funding sources, perhaps from the federal government.
“As of now, we’ve not been able to find any additional subsidy,” she said.
Cranberry Isles’ annual town meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Monday, March 8, at the Islesford Neighborhood House on Little Cranberry Island.
Another ferry operator provides the town with a mail boat and ferry service that makes limited daytime runs in the winter, but the operator of that service has indicated he is not interested in also offering the early and late commuter runs, McCormick said.
Many island residents find housing on MDI in the winter so they can work seasonal jobs or so their children can attend MDI High School in Bar Harbor.
The new commuter ferry service would operate from mid-October through the end of April, the town clerk said. It would leave Islesford, one of the five islands in the town of Cranberry Isles, at 6:30 a.m. and would return at either 5 or 5:30 p.m.
It would stop at Great Cranberry Island on each trip and aims to dock at Northeast Harbor. The bidder, Cranberry Cove, is trying to get permission from the town of Mount Desert to use its pier in Northeast Harbor, she said.
Also at town meeting, voters will consider taking out a $250,000 loan to make road improvements on Great Cranberry, McCormick said.
Overall, voters will be asked to approve an annual municipal budget of $1,815,808, which is approximately $50,000 higher than the current year budget, she said. Most of that difference is because of the proposed commuter ferry service, she said.
In elections, Selectman Richard Beal’s seat is up for renewal and there are two openings on the school board, according to the town clerk. Candidates do not have to fill out candidacy forms ahead of time. Nominations for the positions are expected to be made by attendees while town meeting is in progress.