League seeks fire agreement



BAR HARBOR — The Acadia-area League of Towns board wants written assurance from Mount Desert Island High School officials that the school will provide land for an island-wide fire training facility before the league agrees to pay for a site assessment to determine if the land is buildable.

The island’s four fire chiefs have identified a three-acre piece of high school property near Eagle Lake Road as a suitable, central location for a fire training facility. The school’s board of trustees, which is responsible for buildings and grounds, has indicated its strong approval for allowing the property to be used for that purpose. But neither the trustees nor the school board has taken formal action.

The fire chiefs solicited proposals from area engineering firms for an assessment of whether the property in question is suitable for construction. The chiefs have tentatively accepted a proposal by CES Inc. to conduct the assessment for $2,000.

Mount Desert Fire Chief Mike Bender and Southwest Harbor Deputy Chief Jack Martell on Tuesday asked the League of Towns board to cover the cost. At a previous meeting, Dana Reed, Tremont’s interim town manager, said he thought the league should pay for the assessment. But he was not present for Tuesday’s meeting.

Southwest Harbor Town Manager Don Lagrange said that before approving the expenditure, the league should have a written commitment from high school trustees that they will make the land available, by sale or lease, for a fire training facility. The other league board members agreed and voted unanimously to request a signed memo of understanding (MOU) from the high school trustees.

Contacted later, trustees chairman Sandy McFarland said he didn’t see a problem with that because members of the trustees board have been enthusiastic about the idea of a fire training facility.

“And with wintertime and fires, that’s a good reminder to folks that we need trained and skilled people available,” he said. “There’s not a plethora of people lined up to become firemen around here, and we thought that might attract some of the students who are going to live on the island to think about becoming firemen or volunteer firemen.”

McFarland said later on Tuesday that he had talked with school system Superintendent Howard Colter about the League of Towns request for an MOU.

“Howard said he wants both the school board and the trustees to approve it so that everybody is on the same page,” McFarland said. “He said he would have the school’s lawyer draw up a letter of understanding.”

The League of Towns would not build or operate the fire training facility. It likely would be financed by the four MDI towns and operated by an entity established through an inter-local agreement.

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. dbroom@mdislander.com

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