Islesboro's request for delay in ferry rate increase denied

By Stephanie Grinnell | May 17, 2018
Source: maine.gov The Lincolnville ferry terminal, where the Islesboro ferry departs the mainland.

In a letter released May 17, Maine Department of Transportation Chief Counsel Jim Billings denied a request on behalf of Islesboro to delay implementation of a ferry rate increase.

The rates, as planned, will become effective May 21.

The new tariff structure approved by Maine DOT, which oversees the ferry service on Penobscot Bay, is a flat rate for all islands served. On Islesboro, according to residents and officials, the new rates represent a 118-percent increase for a vehicle and driver to travel between the island and the mainland.

Since the new rates were released in mid-April, Islesboro residents have been vocal in their opposition to the fees, which they argue are not equitable and were approved without public input.

In a letter to the attorney representing Islesboro in its request for a stay, Billings said the primary reason for denying the stay is that "there's not been a showing of irreparable harm where rates for service are the issue. This is a classic case for money damages rather than injunctive relief; if you are successful on appeal anyone who has overpaid for a ticket could be refunded any difference in fare."

He continued by stating that the new rates should be implemented in a timely manner, adding, "Any stay or change in the rates at this point affects every other type of rate, the other islands, the citizens of Maine, and other users of the overall ferry system."

Billings said the process was followed — another sticking point on Islesboro — with appropriate public input and consideration by DOT.

"That decision is final agency action. It would be completely inappropriate to now engage in closed door meetings with interested parties, while representatives from other islands are excluded, in order to come up with a new rate that Islesboro deems a 'fair and equitable solution.'"

In a previous interview, Islesboro Selectman Gabe Pendleton said selectmen are considering alternatives.

“Every option is on the table,” he said in a phone interview May 4. “[Selectmen] are certainly having broad conversations. We’re trying to make a good decision for the town.”

Pendleton said a legal challenge to the new rate structure is likely, a sentiment echoed in the letter sent to Maine DOT requesting the stay.

This story will be updated.

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Stephanie Grinnell
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Stephanie is editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. She previously served as editor of Camden Herald following its return in April 2012.

Stephanie also was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has nearly a decade of experience in the newspaper business ranging from southern and central Maine to Waldo County.

Outside the office, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.

Stephanie lives in Washington with her husband Jeff, four children, a dog named Chewbacca, a rabbit and chickens.

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