June 25, 2018
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Plan to allow ferry riders to park at Rockland high school hits snag

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — The RSU 13 board postponed a vote Thursday night on a plan to allow overflow parking from the state ferry terminal in the high school parking lot during the next five summers.

“This is a terrible contract,” said board member Brian Messing of Rockland.

He said the contract provides nothing to the school district and does not allow RSU 13 to get out of the deal during those five years. Messing also argued that the wording of the proposed contract with the Maine Department of Transportation could force the district to pave the parking lot at the district’s expense.

Board member Tess Kilgour of Rockland agreed, noting that while the district wants to be a good neighbor, it has significant budget problems.

“In the long run this will cost us,” Kilgour said.

Overflow parking has been a sensitive issue in Rockland for several years. Mainly during the summer, motorists park on Rockland streets adjacent to the Maine State Ferry Terminal parking lot either because there is no space in the lot or the motorists do not want to pay to park in it.

The Rockland City Council approved last month a resident parking permit system that would allow residents or their guests on Granite Street to park beyond the parking limits but would result in other vehicles being ticketed. Critics of that ordinance said the plan would simply shift the parking problem to adjacent streets.

Granite Street is the closest side street to the ferry terminal, which serves Vinalhaven, North Haven and Matinicus Island. The high school parking lot is located a little more than a half-mile from the terminal.

Critics of the parking permit plan said a better solution would be for the city to work with the school district and ferry terminal to reinstitute satellite parking. Several years ago SAD 5 and the state had an agreement to allow ferry users to park their vehicles at the parking lot of Rockland District High School. That deal expired after 2007.

Messing said, however, the state paved the parking lot for the district during that agreement.

Under the new proposal, there could be up to 40,000 vehicles parking at what is now the Oceanside High School East parking lot over five years, which would cause wear and tear on the lot, Messing said.

Board member Don Choquette of St. George said the length of the contract concerns him.

“Five years could take us out to Many Flags,” he said, referring to a proposal not only to combine RDHS and Georges Valley High School but also to have a vocational school, community college and technical college established on one campus.

Interim RSU 13 Superintendent Neal Guyer said he would contact the state and determine whether any changes could be made.

An official at the transportation department said Monday that the agency had not received any response yet from the district or been informed about the Thursday night vote.

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