ISLESBORO — State officials have authorized the potential suspension of Maine State Ferry Service between Islesboro and Lincolnville after threats to employees stemming from the service’s plan to double ticket prices next month.

The ferry serving Penobscot Bay islands is still operating, but service will cease if the threats and intimidating behavior toward ferry employees continue, Maine Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt wrote in a letter to Islesboro Town Manager Janet Anderson.

During a special meeting Monday, Selectman Gabe Pendleton said some ferry workers were feeling “a little uncomfortable, while others did not notice any problems,” according to draft meeting minutes.

The threats and intimidation took a number of forms, Bernhardt’s letter said. “Examples include a post to the Islesboro Facebook page suggesting customers firebomb the ferry service, a comment to a crew member … about needing to wear a bulletproof vest, and a large group of individuals approaching a crew member off the boat … harassing him about the new rate structure,” Bernhardt wrote.

He wrote that staff and crew members do not set policy, including the new rate structure scheduled to take effect May 21. The new rates have caused outrage on Islesboro, which has a population of 566, and selectmen have consulted lawyers regarding possible legal action against MDOT, according to the April 23 special meeting draft minutes.

Islesboro Public Safety Director Fred Porter, according to the minutes, said he spoke with the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office about the threats and was told “no threats met the criminal threshold.”

Fees are increasing 118 percent increase for Islesboro residents, who currently can purchase on-island tickets for a vehicle and driver for $13.25, said Margaret Willcox, editor of Islesboro Island News. The new rate is $30.

The service raised the fees to cover a projected shortfall in its 2020 operating budget of $11 million. State law requires that at least 50 percent of operating costs come from user fees.

The approved rates will “standardize ferry prices across the entire system,” MDOT has said.

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