MOUNT DESERT — Voters at the May Town Meeting likely will be asked to authorize spending an estimated $5.1 to $6 million to build an addition to the Town Hall building in Northeast Harbor for the fire department and Northeast Harbor Ambulance Service.
The Board of Selectmen gave their preliminary approval on Monday.
The need for expanded facilities is being driven primarily by the continuing decline in the number of volunteer firefighters. The transition from a force of mostly volunteers to mostly full-time, paid firefighters over the next few years means the town will need to provide on-site living quarters. The ambulance service also needs more space.
Two weeks ago, the selectmen balked at the preliminary estimated cost of $8.5 to $10 million for a two–story addition to the fire station on the south side of the Town Hall. They asked Fire Chief Mike Bender and Public Works Director Tony Smith to work with Hedefine Engineering & Design on revising the expansion plan to reduce the cost.
Bender said Tuesday the biggest change was downsizing the project to include four fire truck bays instead of five.
“That, in turn, eliminates the space above that truck bay, so both the first floor and second floor have been reduced,” he said.
The previous version of the expansion plan had included some administrative and storage space for the police department, and that has been eliminated.
Bender said the sizes of the training room and dining room have been reduced, and one bunk room will remain unfinished.
“We just cut things back as best we could to try to get it down to a cost that was acceptable,” he said.
Bender said some non–construction costs also were adjusted.
“We changed some anticipated inflation rates and sharpened our pencils on some of the administrative costs.”
He had previously said the expansion, as originally designed, should take care of the town’s public safety facility needs for the next three or four decades.
“The way this building is designed right now will last us many, many years, but I can’t say it will get us to that 30- or 40-year mark,” he said.
Smith said in a memo to Town Manager Durlin Lunt that the proposed expansion should meet both short-term needs “and those that can be anticipated to arise over the next decade based on information available at this time. In the future, if additional needs are identified, renovations could be made to the structure.”
Smith cautioned the selectmen to keep in mind that the preliminary cost estimates for the expansion project are not carved in stone.
“It is imperative that they be taken for what they are — they are concept costs based on a concept design. Periodic cost estimate updates would be prepared and shared at certain milestones of the design process if the project goes forward.”
The town of Cranberry Isles leases parking spaces in the lot next to the Town Hall building and each year sells parking permits to Cranberry Isles residents.
Smith said the new expansion plan, which includes room in the parking lot for fire trucks to enter and leave, will require the relocation of some of those spaces.
“But they will be on the same level they are now and there will be no decrease in leased spots,” he said.
The selectmen on Monday authorized Smith to ask the Hedefine design team to provide a cost of their services from “design through bidding” for the board to consider at its Feb. 16 meeting.
Also at that meeting, the board is to consider formally placing the expansion concept plan and associated costs on this year’s town meeting warrant.