The area bordered in red in this aerial view of Mount Desert Island High School property is being considered by the island’s fire chiefs as a possible site for a firefighter training facility. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Council balks at fire training facility cost

BAR HARBOR — A plan that originated in 2011 to create a joint training facility for all Mount Desert Island fire departments hit a snag at a Town Council meeting when councilors denied funding for the development of a concept plan.

In 2014, the island fire chiefs identified a 3-acre site on the Eagle Lake Road near MDI High School as a location for the facility. A 2015 engineering and environmental assessment determined that the site was “generally suitable” for the proposed facility.

The four island towns have split the cost of an $8,000 site investigation and creation of concept plans by Ellsworth-based Hedefine Engineering.

The next phase of the plan, according to Bar Harbor Fire Chief Matt Bartlett, is to fund Hedefine’s surveying, designing and permitting costs. That bill works out to around $42,000 per town, a figure that town councilors in Bar Harbor were uncomfortable with.

“We’re looking at a lot of capital expenditures this year,” Councilor Gary Friedmann said before making the motion to deny the funding.

On Dec. 19, the council unanimously voted to deny funding and requested that Bartlett speak to the other chiefs about reducing the cost. Bartlett said during the meeting that the construction facility is estimated at $2 million, but could be scaled back by finding a site that needs less work or using assistance from the state.

This month, Southwest Harbor selectmen asked the town’s fire chief, Jack Martel, to come back with a more detailed business plan in January after expressing concerns about the cost of the plan. Mount Desert and Tremont expressed their support for the facility, but funding has not yet been discussed.

MDI High School has expressed interest in getting students involved in fire training activities. High school trustees voted in December 2015 to endorse the concept of the facility of school grounds.

If this motion is passed in the four island towns, it is possible that voters could approve the funding for design at 2018 town meetings. Eero Hedefine, president of Hedefine Engineering, said in his proposal that it was unclear who would own the project.

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd is a University of Maine graduate and a former Bar Harbor reporter for the Mount Desert Islander.
Samuel Shepherd

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