Fire/EMS facility, budgets, climate action go to voters

MOUNT DESERT — Voters at the May 4 Town Meeting will be asked to approve spending up to $357,500 for engineering and other services related to designing the proposed addition to the Northeast Harbor fire station, which would house fire and EMS personnel and equipment. 

The “drive in” Town Meeting will be held in the front parking lot at Mount Desert Island High School starting at 6 p.m. 

If voters approve the fire/EMS funding, Hedefine Engineering & Design would be paid $305,000 for design, bidding and permitting services. Civil engineering firm Haley Ward would receive $25,000 for IT services; telecommunications provider Brown’s Communications would be paid $2,500; and there would be $25,000 to cover contingencies. 

The fire department’s need for more space 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, according to Fire Chief Mike Bender.  

And by Jan. 1, 2023, the fire department will take over the responsibilities of the Northeast Harbor Ambulance Service, which has similar space and personnel needs. 

Building the proposed addition to the fire station would cost an estimated $5.1-$6 million, which voters could be asked to approve at a future town meeting. 

Climate emergency 

Voters at Town Meeting will be asked if they want to adopt a resolution declaring a “climate emergency” that would commit the town to working toward achieving zero carbon emissions by 2031. 

The Eco Team at Mount Desert Island High School proposed the climate resolution, which was endorsed by the Mount Desert sustainability committee. 

The resolution cites the negative effects of climate change including threats to “the natural ecosystems of Mount Desert Island, economic activity such as tourism and seasonal recreation, and public health.” 

By passing the resolution, voters would agree that “the climate emergency represents a clear and present danger to all life in the town of Mount Desert and on Mount Desert Island and is threatening the cultural, social and economic well-being of our community.”  

A yes vote would commit the town to “reducing as much as possible town-wide greenhouse gas emissions and initiating additional greenhouse gas reductions as quickly as possible and no later than Dec. 31, 2030.” 

The Bar Harbor Town Council adopted the climate emergency resolution in November 2019. 

Lighting standards 

Several proposed revisions to the town’s Land Use Zoning Ordinance are on the Town Meeting warrant. They include an update of the town’s outdoor lighting standards. 

The stated purpose is to establish “minimum requirements for outdoor lighting that enhance visibility and public safety by preventing uncontrolled intrusion into adjacent properties and the natural environment. 

Town, school budgets 

Voters will be asked to approve a municipal budget for 2021-2022 totaling $10.57 million and a Mount Desert Elementary School budget of $4.98 million. The two budgets combined would raise the property tax rate from the current $7.98 per $1,000 of valuation to approximately $8.26 – an increase of 3.6 percent – pending the completion of property assessments. 

Candidate elections 

On Monday, May 3, the day before the open Town Meeting at the high school, voters will go to the polls to elect municipal and school officials. The polls will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Somesville Fire Station. 

Voters don’t have much choice this year unless they want to write in someone’s name. 

No one filed to challenge Martha Dudman, who is running to retain her seat on the Board of Selectmen. 

There are two seats up for election to the Mount Desert School Committee, and there are two candidates on the ballot: Brian Henkel and James Whitehead. 

Tony Smith is seeking to keep his seat on the MDI High School Board of Trustees; there are no other candidates. 

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]
Dick Broom

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