Council takes next step with renovation project

BAR HARBOR—In what is expected to be a multi-year process from concept to completion, the Bar Harbor Town Council voted 5-2 (Cough, Goldthwait) last week to move to the design phase of a renovation project for the second floor of the municipal building.  

Architects Stewart Brecher and Geoff Fraser presented a preliminary design based on earlier discussions with council members but said further guidance was needed to get to the development stage, which, coupled with specific features and level of furnishings, would drive the overall cost. The draft plan includes a dropdown or sliding wall that would expand seating from 48 to 100 in the council chamber, storage room for chairs and voting equipment, a small office space, expansion of audio-visual equipment, drop ceiling with decorative panels to help with acoustics and a small kitchenette. No changes to the building’s façade are proposed, said Brecher, and estimates as presented run at the “high end” between $750,000 to $800,000 but are subject to change based on future decisions.   

“The assumption is that you wanted to do it well and for long-term use into the future,” said Brecher. 

Ultimately, councilors appropriated $36,000 from the town’s capital improvement funds to cover the next steps of the design process, but not without discussion. Three new councilors have been elected since talks began last year and were joining the conversation for the first time. Some questioned if now was the right time, while others offered suggestions for future design iterations. “The cast of deciders changes, as it has now,” said councilor Jill Goldthwait, who urged caution based on the economic downturn and the implications to businesses and individuals in town this year. This proposal is new to me. I don’t know how long it has been before the council. I don’t know how many people have weighed in on it…, but I feel like I am on the verge of being a skunk at a garden party. “  

Councilor Gary Friedmann asked how it could be “a model for energy efficiency” and said that he’d like to see the rentable office space that currently exists be retained.  

Brecher said he estimated the design/development phase to take about six months and would begin with a reprioritization of needs by the current council members. 

Faith DeAmbrose

Faith DeAmbrose

Managing Editor at Mount Desert Islander
Faith DeAmbrose

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