Eastport Boat School’s future in question with withdrawal of entrepreneur’s proposal

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 12, 2011, at 3:52 p.m.

EASTPORT, Maine — The city of Eastport will hold a special workshop next week to deal with the future of the Boat School in the wake of David Marlow’s withdrawal of his proposal to buy and rebuild the facility.

“Should we sell it? Mothball it? Where do we go from here?” City Council President Robert Peacock said Thursday. Peacock said the Friends of the Boat School have proposed buying the school from the city for $1 and become its operator.

“That and other options will be discussed,” Peacock said. The workshop will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, at Shead High School.

The future of the school is in limbo following Marlow’s announcement last month and Husson University’s announcement earlier this year that it will no longer lease or operate the boat building school after the spring 2012 semester. While some residents have voiced their concerns about losing local control of the school, Eastport officials have said they have no interest in and no financial means to run it.

City officials were shocked when David Marlow, owner of Marlow Yachts, sent them an email in mid-July saying he was backing away from purchasing the property. Marlow, who manufactures luxury yachts in Florida and Asia, proposed to buy the facility for $850,000 and establish a manufacturing facility and 4-year boat construction school. City officials had been working for a year on the plan.

Marlow has been publicly mum about his reasons for not following through, including not responding to emails and telephone calls from the Bangor Daily News, but a letter released Wednesday night by the Eastport City Council indicated he had lost faith in the community support of his efforts.

In a three page letter, mailed on July 19, Marlow at first complimented the economic efforts of community leaders and then harshly criticized the tone and actions of townspeople.

“I would open by heaping praise upon each and every member of the Council and City Manager for their conduct in the matters related to the possible acquisition of the properties,” Marlow wrote. “On a personal basis they have done their best to make Marlow feel welcome in Eastport. I would especially comment on Jon Southern, Capt. Robert Peacock and John Miller’s able assistance and offers to help, though no member’s contributions should be overlooked.”

Marlow said there were numerous reasons for his decision, including personal and business reasons. He then launched into a lengthy and detailed criticism of everything from an old dump on Boat School property to the tone of editorials in the local weekly newspaper to the lack of substance of talks with Husson.

“The delays encountered by the long running and protracted lack of meaningful discussion and negotiations with Husson, together with the disruptive atmosphere that has developed over the period, including damage to the buildings and properties with the heightened and tense emotions over the past few months have caused significant roadblocks to the proposed event,” Marlow wrote. He described “orchestrated and often loud public demonstrations” at city council meetings as a deterrent. He likened the attitude to “looking a capable gift horse in the mouth.”

Marlow said that at one point, the bed of his pickup truck was filled with stinking garbage.

On Friday, Husson President Dr. Robert Clark would not address Marlow’s statements regarding the tone of negotiations directly but did acknowledge the university’s pledge to manage the school for one last year.

“Husson University is dedicated to completing its obligations to the students of the Eastport Boat School during the 2011-12 academic year,” Clark said in an email. “We are particularly appreciative of the support of the city and people of Eastport in leasing us the school’s space as we fulfill our commitment to student learning.”

Peacock said he was aware that some “very pointed questions” had been put to Marlow at city council meetings, but that he did not feel the questions or attitude was unkind.

Peacock also said the city had offered to carve out the area of the Boat School property containing the dump from the sale.

Marlow also expressed concerns about vandalism and damage at the Boat School. “I cannot say who is responsible for the deterioration of the facility since we began discussions but it is obvious items are missing and damage has been done,” he wrote.

Marlow then ended his letter with an assessment: “In Eastport I have met with and listened, conversed with, dined with and shared a cocktail with a number of concerned and genuine persons looking for a way forward to end the cycle of downward economics and local issues that thwart civic efforts to advance pertinent causes. But the original tide of good will that flowed to my mailbox and email address from others has at times taken on a surly, judgmental atmosphere of entitlement, a cause I do not embrace.”

Marlow said he has deep regret for what he calls “the division I see among Eastport citizenry,” while recognizing at the same time that there is a core group of residents who are trying their best to find a middle ground.

Peacock said he was startled at the bitter tone of Marlow’s letter and was unaware of Marlow’s concerns beforehand.

“We are very confused,” Peacock said. He admitted that there was some resistance to Marlow’s plan but attributed that to people who are not at ease with change.

“I think we did all we could possibly do for Mr. Marlow,” he added.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/08/12/news/down-east/eastport-boat-school%e2%80%99s-future-in-question-with-withdrawal-of-entrepreneur%e2%80%99s-proposal/ printed on October 21, 2014