AUGUSTA, Maine — Emergency legislation to allow the city of Eastport to sell the Boat School to a luxury yacht manufacturing company is proceeding through the Legislature, apparently with no opposition.
After a public hearing held Monday, Feb. 28, the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government scheduled a work session on the bill for 10 a.m. Monday, March 7.
Maine Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Eastport, Washington County Commissioner Chris Gardner, several Eastport city councilors, Eastport City Manager Jon Southern and Gary Crocker of the Maine Community College System all spoke in favor of the bill during the hearing. No one spoke in opposition.
LD 594 would allow the city to sell the Boat School, which would get the city out from under a losing financial agreement while at the same time bringing hundreds of jobs to the area and a major upgrade of the school itself.
“This really isn’t a matter of who approves or disapproves,” Southern said Wednesday. “The city
council had already voted to close the school if we did not find another investor. This bill allows us to continue with a world class boat school here at Eastport.”
Luxury yacht manufacturer David Marlow of Florida, Asia and Maine, has offered the city $850,000 for the school, an offer the city councilors plan to accept once LD 594 is passed.
Marlow has told the Eastport council that once a purchase has been complete, he plans to invest $3 million in a new yacht manufacturing facility. He said he would purchase adjoining properties, expand the campus, bring in specialized equipment, such as a 150-ton hydraulic lift, raise the height of existing buildings and build additional buildings.
He also would expand the Boat School from a two-year to a four-year program and
provide internships at his yacht manufacturing firm for students.
Husson University of Bangor now operates the Boat School but has not confirmed yet whether or not it will remain on after the sale as the educational sponsor.
In an interview with the Bangor Daily News earlier this year, Marlow said he had the opportunity to site his facility in other states but it was the Boat School and its potential that brought him to Eastport.
Raye, the bill’s sponsor, presented the bill Monday.
“This win-win proposal, completely financed by private capital, offers not only stability for the Boat School, but the promise of new private-sector manufacturing jobs in an area desperately in need of employment,” Raye told the committee. “The sale of the property also will allow the financially strapped city of Eastport to recoup its losses from funding the operating expense these past few years and will restore the property to the tax rolls. This bill presents a concrete opportunity to remove a barrier to economic development and job creation, and restore a piece of Eastport’s heritage as a shipbuilding community by allowing the construction of a state-of-the-art yacht building facility.”
John Miller, an Eastport city councilor, also testified at Monday’s hearing, saying that the sale of the school will bring economic growth and enhancement not just to Eastport, but all of Washington County.
Miller testified that with the opportunities presented by Marlow, Eastport has the potential for a new partner and partnership that will provide the Boat School and the city “unfathomable opportunities.”
Crocker testified in favor of the bill after getting reassurances from the city of Eastport that the
community college system would retain waterfront access.