MOUNT DESERT — If voters at two town meetings this spring say OK, King Construction Services of Machias will be quite busy in Mount Desert over the next couple of years.
On Monday night, the Select Board voted to award King a contract to renovate and expand the fire station in Northeast Harbor at a cost of $3.87 million, pending voter approval at the May 2 annual town meeting.
The project will entail adding a fourth truck bay and a second story, which will contain four bunk rooms for fire and EMS personnel, a kitchen/day room, a meeting/training room, fitness room, restrooms with showers and an elevator.
At a special meeting two weeks ago, the Select Board voted to award King a $783,500 contract to expand and renovate the fire station in Somesville to provide living quarters and workspace for fire and EMS personnel. Voters will be asked to approve that at a special town meeting on March 8.
Only two construction companies bid on each of the two projects, and King submitted the low bid for each job.
Ambulance service to town
The transfer of emergency medical services from the private Northeast Harbor Ambulance Service to the town of Mount Desert is to begin in about three months, with completion set for end of the year.
Fire Chief Mike Bender told the Warrant Committee last week that the current schedule calls for the ambulance service to give one of its two ambulances to the fire department around May 1.
“At that point, the Northeast Harbor Ambulance Service would still be the primary responder for EMS, but we will have an ambulance and hopefully the staffing so that we can respond if they don’t have staff or they’re busy on another call,” Bender said.
In the meantime, he hopes to hire as many as eight new firefighter/EMTs, although he acknowledges that will be a challenge.
He said the ambulance service would give its second ambulance to the town around July 1, assuming he is able to be fully staffed, or nearly so, by then. The ambulance service would likely continue to provide some EMS personnel, as needed and if available, for several more months.
“I believe that by January 2023 they will be seeking to totally turn over all EMS operations to the town,” Benders said.
He said the Mount Desert Fire Department has been responding to about 300 calls a year. He expects that number to at least double with the addition of EMS responsibilities.
Deputy fire chief sharing
Starting in July, the Mount Desert and Bar Harbor fire departments expect to share a deputy chief. John Lennon, currently assistant fire chief in Bar Harbor, will be deputy fire chief in both towns.
“He is a paramedic and has a lot of knowledge and experience in EMS, so bringing him on board will help us make that transition to taking over the ambulance service a lot smoother,” Bender said. “He has already helped me quite a bit to navigate through the process of trying to get this transition off to a good start.”
Lennon is to spend about 60 percent of his time working for Bar Harbor and 40 percent for Mount Desert.
Bender said the Bar Harbor Fire Department has agreed to handle billing for Mount Desert’s EMS calls.