Passengers wait for Casco Bay Line ferries on Sept. 26. CBL’s board of directors has opted not to change the Peaks Island schedule in 2020 and delayed action on changes for other islands as well. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — After years of discussion and planning, the Casco Bay Lines Board of Directors decided not to change the ferry schedules to Peaks, Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Long, Chebeague and Cliff islands, at least for now, following an outcry from the island community.

The 12-member board Sept. 12  also decided to delay changing ferry schedules for other islands until at least next month.

The ferry schedule for Peaks Island will not be changing next year, despite a recommendation by a marine transit consulting firm. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

As part of its long-range strategic priorities in 2015-2016, the board examined schedules to see if they could be tweaked to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction. According to a report from KPFF, a marine transit consulting firm hired to facilitate the planning process, “small to moderate system efficiencies (operational and cost savings) can be realized while also increasing the number of service hours through the implementation of revised proposed schedules.”

The current schedule was put into place 50 years ago and only minor, occasional changes have been made.

“Personally I am pleased with the schedule change,” Casco Bay Lines General Manager Hank Berg said. “It doesn’t make everyone happy, but no schedule would make everyone happy. The process was a very thoughtful process with robust public outreach.”

Peaks Island residents, however, were not pleased.

Lisa Penalver, a member of the Peaks Island Council, told board members the times islanders go to and from work or pick their kids up from school is dictated by the schedule.

“To change it would pose a significant disruption,” Penalver said.

“It may be 40-50 years old, but that’s because it works,” Susan Hanley, another island resident, said.

A number of the residents who spoke at the meeting, including Jean Hoffman, felt the changes were being made to accommodate visitors to the island instead of residents.

Board members Charles Burr and Mike Murray agreed, saying the board’s first priority ought to be those who live on the island. Burr, who thinks the current system works just fine, said if changes are made, tourists and visitors will come to the islands regardless of when ferries leave and return to the mainland.

“A change we might feel is insignificant may cause people to make decisions impacting their livelihood,” said Murray, a former assistant to the Portland city manager who now works as the Park Division’s director of cemeteries and project management.

Board member Polly Wentworth, a resident of Chebeague Island, was set to vote to approve the schedule change for Peaks Island but changed her mind after last-minute opposition from Peaks Island residents.

“The 31 emails I got yesterday without one in favor was huge for me,” she said.

The board was in full agreement to postpone a vote on the schedule changes for the other islands until its Oct. 24 meeting in order for Casco Bay Lines staff to more closely examine the impact the schedule would have, particularly for school-aged children and residents on Cliff and Chebeague islands.

“I think the schedule is very close. We can make it work, but I don’t think it’s there yet,” said board member James Luedke, a resident of Great Diamond Island.

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