Tax deal for proposed Bath shipyard project arouses opposition
BATH — Bath Iron Works is seeking site plan and contract rezoning approvals from the city, and a tax increment financing agreement, to expand and make other improvements.
A petition opposing another TIF agreement with BIW attracted nearly 370 signatures at the state Senate District 19 polls Tuesday.
BIW wants to build a more than 51,000-square-foot outfitting hall that will be connected to the south end of the existing Ultra Hall. The structure would contain two, 200-ton bridge cranes.
Because the proposed 110-foot height of the outfitting hall exceeds the 75-foot maximum in the Industrial/Shipyard zone, the shipyard is seeking contract rezoning for the project, along with site plan approval.
In return for the rezoning, BIW would create a buffer between its main parking lot and Washington Street. It would also extend parking, create a picnic area and pave existing trails at South Park.
Also, BIW's South Hyde Assembly and Hazardous Waste storage buildings would be demolished for construction of a two-bay blast/paint building, and an existing paint building would become a storage facility for paint and hazardous waste, while a combined boiler/compressor building would be built.
Site plan approval would be needed for those projects, too.
The Planning Board will consider the site plans, along with the contract rezoning request, on Tuesday, Sept. 3. The board can only make a recommendation on the contract rezoning, which the City Council must approve.
If the project is approved, construction could begin late this year, with completion expected in the second half of 2015.
BIW, which this week is laying off 40 employees, is seeking the TIF agreement for the upgrades "in the face of a declining market for Navy new ship construction and increased competition for the work that is available," shipyard spokesman Jim DeMartini said Tuesday in an email.
"The investments in these new facilities will enable BIW to continue to build on process improvements made possible by the Land Level Transfer Facility ... and Ultra Hall to further reduce the costs of our ships, increase our competitiveness and bring additional work into the shipyard," DeMartini added. "The successful partnership with the City, State and the US Navy on the LLTF in the late 1990's made it possible today for us to be building all three DDG 1000-class destroyers. Continuing this partnership with the City for these needed improvements is essential for BIW's continued success."
The TIF would be BIW's third in the city. The shipyard is refining the specifics of its proposal to the City Council, which it will present Wednesday, Sept. 4, DeMartini explained.
Meanwhile, Bruce Gagnon of Bath, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, has launched a petition drive against the proposed TIF. He said 369 signatures were collected Tuesday at the polls.
The petition is meant largely to educate the public, and to create debate within the community about what critics call "corporate welfare," Gagnon said last week.
"The amount of signatures probably (is) the least important thing," he said. "The education and spurring debate are the most important. ... Our fundamental purpose is to get more people talking about this."
Gagnon addressed the City Council about it earlier this month.
"This ongoing transfer of public funds to private corporations is corporate welfare that Bath, our state, and the nation cannot afford," he said, reading from a prepared statement. "But sadly, tax dollars get shifted from schools and roads, from the needs of real people to the bottom line of the already well-endowed corporations."
He added that "if we invested those same dollars in building rail systems for instance at a place like BIW we'd double the number of jobs created. Military spending is capital intensive – all other spending is labor intensive."