On March 28, Isle au Haut held its annual Town Meeting at Revere Memorial Hall. Ted Hoskins presided and Bill Clark, Jason Barter and Belvia MacDonald were elected First, Second and Third Selectman, respectively, for the ensuing year. In addition, John Hughes and Steve Schaffer were elected to five-year terms on the Planning Board, Ben MacDonald was reelected as Treasurer and Sue MacDonald was reelected Town Clerk.
Voters passed two articles dealing with accessibility issues for the future of the town, persuaded by presentations from the Isle au Haut Boat Service and the Penobscot East Resource Center and Colwell Ramp Committee.
The Isle au Haut Boat Service, a not-for-profit corporation formed by Isle au Haut residents in 2002 to take over the private Isle au Haut Company and “ensure a safe and reliable year round connection to the mainland, including passenger, mail, freight and emergency services,” was granted $20,000 to be raised and appropriated by the town.
Speaking on behalf of Isle au Haut Boat Service was its president, George Cole, who explained the need for a town subsidy to cover the growing cost of running the ferry service. The Boat Service’s income from passenger and freight has been essentially flat in past years, while fuel and insurance costs have grown dramatically. Cole noted that the company’s dependence upon the financial contributions of a single family was appreciated but impractical and “ultimately not a good thing for the community.” Thus, the Isle au Haut Boat Service is exploring other sources of funding including the state of Maine, the National Park Service (which owns a substantial portion of Isle au Haut and depends upon the Boat Service to access campsites at Duck Harbor), and various private foundations. Unfortunately, these sources most often donate money for “tangible results,” i.e. a new boat or a better wharf – not to offset the operating expenditures for which town voters were asked to appropriate money.
In addition, the town voted to raise $5,000 for Colwell Ramp Waterfront Access. The Colwell Ramp Committee, a citizens’ group with members from both Stonington and Isle au Haut, plans to reconstruct a public wharf and establish a Marine Museum at the historic Colwell property in Stonington. The project has worked in conjunction with the Penobscot East Resource Center (PERC), which describes itself as “a community-based organization that provides support to local groups engaged in community-based marine management and fishermen-based stewardship,” to submit a Community Development Block Grant for the project. Ted Ames, the chair of PERC, discussed the benefits of an ongoing relationship between Isle au Haut and the Penobscot East Resource Center, citing as an example the group’s plan for a Zone C community lobster hatchery that will release juvenile lobsters into Isle au Haut waters.
On a lighter note, Al Gordon may want to heed the call to public duty on Isle au Haut. Although he is not a registered voter in the town, his name was counted as a write-in vote for seven articles, soundly defeating Mickey Mouse, but losing by a margin of one vote to the Selectmen (who held the incumbency) for the title of Surveyor of Wood and Lumber.
Cyrus Moulton is an Island Institute Fellow based in the Cranberry Isles.