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August 22, 2014





Boat School board expands, awaits lawsuit judgment
by Lora Whelan


      Within a mere 75 minutes the Friends of the Boat School had garnered seven new board members, doubling the size of the board and bringing in the "fresh blood and new ideas" that long‑time board member Dean Pike said was needed. The group's annual meeting was held on the evening of August 11 at the Boat School facility at the Maine Marine Technology Center on Deep Cove Road.
     Along with expanding the board, the seven standing board members ran over the finances, with President Tom Ries listing $5,000 in the checking account and an additional $8,400 expected to come in soon from rental and other fee income. Debts were minimal, with the exception of the astonishingly large monthly electric fee of about $700, and that without any school equipment being used. Ries explained to the curious audience that at issue is the way that the electrical system was set up years ago with a meter that continuously charges six transformers whether they're being used or not. It's the "demand" fee that the board is working to eliminate, he said, with Pike researching costs associated with two different replacement options discussed with electric utility Emera. As both a board members and as a renter of technology center space for his Moose Island Marine business, Pike said that it was likely that "the Moose" would help pay for a portion of the new electrical service.
     A potential sticky wicket was raised by board member Bill Rowley, who noted the apparent lack of deed access to power line maintenance or construction on that portion of the Boat School's former property now owned by Perry Marine & Construction (PMC). While Rowley explained that PMC has deed language that allows for access to maintain or repair its power infrastructure located on Boat School property, there is no corresponding language in the Boat School's deed. Ries turned to PMC partner Gerry Morrison in the audience and asked if it would be a problem to access Boat School power lines. Morrison replied that it would not be an issue.

Awaiting court's summary judgment

     Rowley next raised the specter of the elephant in the room: the lawsuit that has made it next to impossible for the Boat School to raise funds through loans or grants because of being named, along with others, as "lis pendens." The legal term means that a written notice has been issued that a lawsuit has been filed which concerns the title or an interest in real property. The filing gives notice to the defendant and general public that there is a potential claim on the property.
Rowley said that he had written a letter to Judge Robert Murray asking if the Boat School could be dropped from lis pendens status since the nonprofit was technically never a part of the lawsuit, filed by Eastport residents Phyllis Bradbury and David Gholson against the City of Eastport and others over the sale of the property in 2011.
     Ries adds in an interview that while the Boat School is not a part of the lawsuit, unfortunately it appears to be the party that has been hurt the most from the suit. "We've spent $280,000 over the last two and one‑half years to keep it up and running" with employees, student recruitment, programming, heat and utilities. The school is currently running no programs and, unless judgment happens soon, is planning to shut down the buildings this winter to save on heating costs. The court's timely judgment on the lawsuit is important, Ries reiterates, because the school cannot raise funds in any meaningful manner until it is resolved.
     In an interview City of Eastport attorney Dennis Mahar says that the plaintiffs "have asked that the counterclaims brought by Messrs. Morrison's companies be dismissed through the summary judgment process, but that was done, and has been pending for many months now. I hope the court will rule on the motions for summary judgment that both sides have filed within the next couple of months."
     Mahar adds, "I can confirm that the plaintiffs and defendants have discussed settlement. Neither the city nor the Friends of the Boat School nor Moose Island Marine are really parties to those negotiations, other than to attempt to facilitate them. It is my understanding that the plaintiffs have declined to settle until the court has ruled on the summary judgment motions."
On a brighter note, long‑time Boat School supporter and former employee Joanne O'Grady has worked with the Friends of the Peavey Memorial Library over the past year to go through the Boat School's library, discard moldy and otherwise ruined books and periodicals, sort through the remaining stacks and remove those with no connection to marine trades. The group spent a substantial amount of time undertaking the task, O'Grady reported, with the end result a pile of books that bookseller John Smith is willing to purchase for $600 and the others that he does not want to go to the Friends of Peavey to be used in its own book sale fundraising efforts. It's a win, O'Grady said, for nonprofits. Since the Boat School books are actually owned by the city, O'Grady said, she has obtained permission from City Manager Larry Post to go ahead. She and the group of people who worked on the library project were heartily thanked by the Friends of the Boat School board for their efforts.
     Existing board members are Tom and Jean Ries, Dean Pike, Meg McGarvey, Victor and Rhonda Voisine and Bill Rowley. New board members are Colleen Dana‑Cummings, Wanda Newman, Joanne O'Grady, Jeff Phillips, Andrew Pottle, Kevin Raye and Polly Sullivan. In addition, Karen Raye volunteered her fundraising expertise.

History of the lawsuit
     The Boat School was established in 1969 in Lubec. Operations were moved to the Deep Cove site in Eastport a few years later. Over the years it was run by Washington County Community College and then Husson University. In 2011 Husson announced its decision to cease running the program with the graduation of the 2011‑2012 class. The Friends of the Boat School now has ownership of the facility and the school. Over its lifetime the Boat School has offered many marine trades programs including wooden boat construction, composite technology, marine engines and systems and surfacing.
     The lawsuit brought in 2011 by Bradbury and Gholson against the City of Eastport for the sale of the Boat School property was dismissed in superior court on November 15, 2012. The two Eastport residents believed the city failed to comply with the requirements of the city charter to advertise the sale of the city‑owned property before entering a sale agreement.
     In late October 2011 First Perry Realty, a company created by PMC, which is a partnership between CPM Constructors and Morrison Manufacturing Inc. of Perry, purchased the city‑owned parcel for $300,000, which included the Boat School facility and a pier used by the public and commercial entities for boat repair, launching and berthing. The city's sale to First Perry Realty stipulated that PMC turn over about half the property to the nonprofit Friends of the Boat School, allow public access to the ramp for one year, give permanent ramp access to specific stakeholders and that PMC give $75,000 to the city to use to build a replacement public boat ramp. In addition, a small parcel of land on Deep Cove Road was given to the city as a location to build the new ramp.
     The superior court ruling in November 2012 explained that while the city charter noted the need for the city manager to advertise city property up for sale, the charter did not specify what type of advertising had to be used. The ruling states, "Nowhere within the charter itself is the term 'advertise' or 'advertised' defined." While the plaintiffs contended that advertising should include ad placement in newspapers, listing property with realtors, seeking assistance from realtors and other professionals, posting notices seeking bids and other actions to solicit broad interest, the judgment states that "they are not steps legally required in order to comply with the city charter." In addition, the ruling explained that the charter had a clause that said that the powers of the city under the charter "should be construed liberally in favor of the city."

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