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Originally published in Castine Patriot, December 5, 2013
Castine questions academy on enrollment, waterfront plans

by Sharon Bray

On November 20, Selectmen David Unger, Peter Vogell and Gus Basile went into a regularly scheduled “town-gown” meeting with several questions raised at their own meeting two days earlier.

Maine Maritime Academy vice presidents Jeff Loustaunau and John Barlow, with input from other administrators, answered directly, but with some open ends.

Barlow said the school anticipates approximately 50 students will graduate in December. MMA holds a “graduation reception” for them and their families.

A number of the students will take jobs “around the world,” said Barlow, keeping them away from formal commencement exercises in May.

Although enrollment will be further reduced by “melt” between semesters, according to Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Elizabeth True, the actual number will not be known until January.

The town is watching enrollment for its local impact, said Unger.

Loustaunau estimated a total “in the low 900s” for spring semester.

Unger also asked about the status of the academy’s waterfront improvement project “as it relates to the town’s short fix of the bathroom situation.” Town officers had heard MMA was seeking bids for a replacement boiler in one of the older waterfront buildings.

“Our plans have not changed,” replied Loustaunau, expecting a wait of about five or six years before MMA will offer public restrooms and other upgrades.

The boiler, he said, has to be replaced because of safety issues with the old one that serves waterfront buildings and the Training Ship State of Maine. A new one would be cheaper than repairs to the one that exists in Andrews Hall.

With Andrews slated to be demolished or replaced with a smaller structure, the boiler would be moved to a different waterfront location, Barlow said.

Although plans to move the machine shop and other non-water-dependent functions uphill to the main campus were cut from the design of the new ABS engineering building, those plans will be reconfigured, according to Loustaunau. He also noted that the academy appreciated how Castine voters supported the recent referendum on a bond issue to help pay for the new building.

Also on the agenda was contact with MMA regarding student traffic violations. Basile described a complaint brought to Monday’s selectmen’s meeting November 18 from a citizen who recorded the license plate number of a driver described as an MMA student speeding and ignoring stop signs.

True said they should call her to report any such incident, and she would hand it over to the safety office, which can quickly find the name to whom that license plate is issued.

“We hold an adult conversation” with any student reported for alleged violations, Loustaunau said. “Usually that is quite effective.”

Basile also reported that a town resident who is a retired U.S. Navy officer had been talking about how a much larger training ship could help the town’s economic development. Such a ship would be used for disaster response.

MMA has used its ship for such purposes in the past, Barlow said. But they have no plans to replace the current State of Maine.

The federal government is talking about building new ships for training instead of repurposing retired naval vessels, Barlow added. Merchant Marine training academies nationwide need ships that can house more students and provide adequate numbers of life boats.

As for Castine, Loustaunau said a 900 foot vessel would surprise the town and not please all the citizens.

Town Manager Dale Abernethy noted that such a ship would require a commercial terminal and access along the town’s narrow Main Street could be a problem.

Back into discussion of the real world, Loustaunau noted the academy has changed its school closing policy in recent years. Where MMA seldom closed for major snow events, it now starts to evaluate the situation at 4 a.m. and is likely to cancel classes whenever the public school is closed. Some offices, however, may remain open for business.

The academy’s single-stream recycling program is progressing, Loustaunau reported, with three buildings already in the system. By the start of the second semester, MMA expects it to be campus-wide.

Abernethy said his goal is to have single-stream recycling in town “in place by the end of this fiscal year.” The town’s current system increasingly has limited what it will accept. A major hurdle for the transition, according to the town manager, is the cost of hauling the single stream to Portland.

Loustaunau said it would make sense for the school to coordinate its efforts with the town whenever Castine is ready to institute the same kind of recycling.

With holiday breaks coming up, the group decided to skip its December meeting and scheduled the next town-gown for Wednesday, January 22, at Emerson Hall.