News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, June 28, 2018
MMA renews interest in Bucksport site

by Sharon Bray

At the regular town-gown meeting in the town hall June 20, Maine Maritime Academy President Bill Brennan told municipal officers that the academy has returned to an earlier position of looking at Bucksport as a potential location to provide ongoing education for certain merchant mariners.

In addition to updates on rental housing registration and the latest MMA enrollment numbers for the 2018-19 school year, the select board, town manager and office staff talked with Brennan about other plans.

Brennan said the institution is “back to looking at Bucksport to develop a training facility.” The price of a piece of property at the former paper mill location “is no longer prohibitive…and we are fully engaged in conversation” about a proposal.

When the academy first considered mill property to establish training programs for shipping company employees, the asking price was too much for MMA trustees to consider, he said. They began to look at using land the academy already owns in Penobscot.

Brennan said he wanted income from the training program to help lower the cost of tuition for MMA students.

An existing building on the property had been used as a training center for paper mill employees, according to Brennan. In addition to “a great building” the site is closer to airports and available lodging. The town of Bucksport, he noted, is interested in having the academy there.

On other topics, Town Manager Jimmy Goodson reported that “listing forms are flowing in,” and he expects to complete registration of rental properties by August. The listings are in compliance with a recently adopted rental housing ordinance intended to improve safety and communication between the town and landlords, many of whom rent to MMA students.

Goodson asked Brennan for a list of rental addresses without student names, as provided in past years, for town officers to check against their list of registered rental units.

For the upcoming school year, Brennan said about 960 students are enrolled, but a final count will not be available until classes start. He also reported that the Training Ship State of Maine is expected to return to its Castine harbor dock about midday July 14 while the town is holding its annual Bastille Day celebration.

The ship plans to clear customs in Eastport this year where the process is much faster than in Portland. After a stop at Searsport to pick up parents and other guests, it will sail directly to Castine.

Goodson said Bastille Day participants will be encouraged to go to the town’s best viewing points to watch the ship return. Because the holiday honoring Castine’s historic connections to France falls on a Saturday this year, he said he anticipates a large crowd.