$5.2M for fire station tops May 3 warrant 

MOUNT DESERT — Voters at the annual town meeting on May 3 will be asked to authorize the town to borrow up to $5.24 million to expand the fire station in Northeast Harbor. 

The project would involve adding a truck bay and a second story to provide living quarters for fire and EMS personnel. Last year, voters approved spending up to $357,500 for engineering and design services for the project. 

Tuesday’s town meeting will be held in the gym at Mount Desert Elementary School starting at 6 p.m.  

Voters also will be asked to authorize borrowing up to $344,000 to build a secure fiber network from the Somesville fire station to connect with Bar Harbor’s network at the intersection of Route 3 and Eagle Lake Road and then continue to the Town Hall in Northeast Harbor. 

An explanation on the warrant reads: “The police and fire departments’ records management systems, camera systems, dispatch telephone systems and newly purchased radio consoles will benefit from the enhanced speed and dependability this network will provide. As the town moves toward further municipal collaborations with Bar Harbor, the need for secure private network connectivity will grow, and this network will accommodate those digital needs for years to come.” 

Also on the town meeting warrant is a proposal to borrow up to $360,000 to pay the town’s share of the cost of replacing two old, undersized culverts that carry the waters of Denning Brook under Beech Hill Cross Road. Last year, the town received a $125,000 grant from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to help pay for the culvert replacements.  

Public Works Director Tony Smith has said the existing culverts are in very poor condition.  

“That contributes to flooding, roadway sinkholes and roadway washouts,” he said. “The existing culverts also negatively impact the passage of animal life through them.” 

Voters also will be asked to authorize spending up to $220,000 from the town’s Capital Gains Reserve Account to repair about 200 feet of the Seal Harbor beach shoreline that was eroded by a strong storm surge in 2020. The eroded area is downhill from Steamboat Wharf Road. 

With voter approval, the town will spend up to $448,000 from an undesignated marina funds account to replace concrete abutments at the Northeast Harbor Marina that provide access to floats. An inspection found that the abutments are showing signs of deterioration and are nearing the end of their life expectancy. 

The municipal budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year will be voted on at town meeting. The budget for the current year is $10.57 million. The proposed budget for next year is $12.66 million, an increase of $1.9 million. 

The fire department accounts for about $1.29 million of that increase, largely because it is taking over the EMS responsibilities of the Northeast Harbor Ambulance Service, including the hiring of fire/EMS personnel. The proposed budget for the newly combined fire/EMS department is just under $2 million. 

The current year’s budget for Mount Desert Elementary School is $4.98 million. The proposed budget for next fiscal year is just over $5 million, an increase of less than 1 percent. 

While proposing some new spending and borrowing next year, the Select Board also wants to give taxpayers a break. Voters at town meeting will be asked to authorize using a total of $1 million from the Undesignated Funds Account and the Capital Gains Reserve Account to reduce the 2022-2023 property tax commitment. 

Several proposed amendments to the town’s Land Use Zoning Ordinance (LUZO) will be voted on at the May 3 town meeting. 

One amendment would clarify that if acreage is added to a non-conforming lot that is completely outside the Shoreland Zone, but not enough acreage is added to make it more non-conforming, the lot retains its grandfathered status. 

Another amendment would require pre- and post-construction photographs for permits to build in the Shoreland Zone. 

The next amendment on the warrant would clarify that only one accessory dwelling unit is allowed per lot for lots that are totally outside the Shoreland Zone. 

Another LUZO amendment to be voted on would remove a small lot on Long Pond from the Resource Protection Zone to conform to state shoreland zoning standards. 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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