News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, June 27, 2013
Maine Maritime Academy, Town of Castine move slowly toward common goals

by Sharon Bray

Representatives of Maine Maritime Academy and the town office agreed on every point raised at a meeting in Emerson Hall Wednesday, June 19. But they also acknowledged that action will take some time.

Town Manager Dale Abernethy opened discussion with a question about MMA plans for waterfront construction to include new public toilets.

“That would allow us to put the town’s bathrooms in the dumpster where it belongs,” Abernethy said.

Although the academy is “keenly interested” in waterfront developments, responded MMA President Bill Brennan, right now a new engineering building on the main campus is the priority.

Eventually, Brennan said, MMA hopes to demolish some of its older waterfront buildings. Replacements could include toilets for the public, showers and even laundry facilities for boaters coming into Castine’s harbor.

In about two years, he said, the academy should be ready to look at potential designs for new structures. He added that he hopes they will be complete, “before I leave.”

Overall, MMA “is the driving force,” according to Brennan, addressing energy production, traffic flow, security for the training ship along with the academy’s curriculum and programs.

Abernethy described the town’s approach to “capital assets for the last century” as a “band aid approach.”

While town and academy people are cooperating on long-term plans for the waterfront, Brennan told Abernethy that in the meantime, “my sense is you’re going to have to do something with the toilets.”

Another long-term project could be the small wind power test structure now in Castine Harbor. Cooperating institutions, including the University of Maine and MMA, would like to extend removal deadline from June 30 to sometime next spring, Brennan said.

The extension requires permits from federal, state and local agencies, he added.

The only complaint he has heard is from people who say the windmill is not working. “It is working,” stated Brennan, when it has a wind of at least 7 knots to turn the blades. It generates electricity which goes to the New England power grid.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Peter Vogell said he hopes it can stay at least through June 30 because people want to see if from the lighthouse that weekend.

Dyce Head light is part of “lighthouse challenge” that draws visitors from all over the U.S. and abroad, said Vogell.

Castine’s Finance Officer Karen Motycka said she had talked to Paul Mercer, MMA’s liaison for the wind project. If authorities do not decide to leave it over the winter, a removal date could be weather dependent. Rough seas could mean the structure would have to be towed away before the lighthouse weekend.

Asked about the number of students enrolled at the academy for the 2013-2014 school year, Brennan said it is “on track… but enrollment management is not an exact science.”

He introduced the academy’s new Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Liz True and said they had accepted more than they anticipate will actually enroll. He described the summer and first semester as a “melt” period when the 970 count could diminish by 11 percent.

True said the percentage is based on a five-year average.

The academy has started work on a new parking area near the dormitory, Brennan said.

Selectman David Unger listed upcoming town band concerts and said a number of MMA people now play with the band.

Training Vessel State of Maine is due into the harbor June 30, but training cruise time aboard will go through July 3, Brennan said.