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Originally published in Castine Patriot, October 25, 2012
Maine Maritime Academy waterfront future awaits strategic plan

by Sharon Bray

At their monthly town-gown meeting on October 17, representatives of the town and Maine Maritime Academy talked briefly about the school’s future.

Vice President Jeff Loustaunau chaired the meeting at MMA.

Selectman David Unger asked whether the academy plans to use any of its recent federal grant of nearly $400,000 for work on the waterfront.

Ellie Willlmann, vice president for advancement, said the trustees are likely to put the money toward the planned new engineering building. She said MMA hopes to have all the money for the building raised by August.

Other factors in spending money and in what to do at the waterfront are under discussion by an academy strategic planning group.

Vice President John Barlow commented, “We have a lot of functions on the waterfront that don’t need water.” He foresees moving things like the welding facility uphill to the main campus. He added that Andrews Hall, which is “functionally obsolete” should be demolished.

Gus Basile, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, asked if a parking garage were still part of academy plans.

Such a building, replied Willmann, remains under discussion along with “a lot of data” in the strategic planning process.

Basile also asked if the number of students had declined as some drop out.

Most changes in enrollment happen between semesters, Barlow said. Between those who graduate in December and the few whose grades drop unacceptably, he would expect a reduction of about 50 students.

Loustaunau asked Castine’s Economic Development Director Sue Walsh for merchant feedback on discount cards distributed for homecoming and family weekends.

“They didn’t get a lot of use,” she replied, agreeing that weather was a factor.

Loustaunau said some homecoming groups had chosen to meet away from town, which was a disappointment to the school and to the town.

He noted, however, a large turnout for an open house for families of prospective students and suggested an outreach from the town for the next two open houses in December and April.

A very large turnout was expected Thursday, October 18, for a “career fair” with more than 70 employers coming to town, Barlow said.

“There could be parking problems,” he added.

Town Manager Dale Abernethy told Town Clerk Susan Macomber to alert Parking Officer Jim Stone about the event.

Barlow said the fair would be open to the public.

The group agreed to set upcoming meetings around holiday school closures—November 14 and December 19.

Macomber suggested meeting dates for January through May 2013, and all agreed that skipping June and July meetings might be a good repeat of 2012.