MOUNT DESERT — Building a new community meeting room as part of the Somesville fire station renovation project could nearly triple the cost and delay the project significantly, Fire Chief Mike Bender told the Board of Selectmen on Aug. 2.
The board took no vote but agreed informally that Bender should proceed with the renovation project as originally planned, without a meeting room.
That plan calls for converting the existing meeting room into living and sleeping quarters and workspace for firefighters and EMS personnel. An architect’s preliminary estimate of the renovation cost is $400,000 to $500,000. The rough estimated cost of building a meeting room with storage space onto the fire station is an additional $800,000 to $900,000.
Several selectmen said at a meeting last month that they were surprised and disappointed that the renovation plan did not include a community meeting room, and they asked Bender to work with an architect to explore the feasibility of building one.
Selectman Martha Dudman asked if there has been any “outcry” from Somesville residents about the potential loss of the meeting room. Town Manager Durlin Lunt said that, from what he has heard, “The village is not so upset about losing that community room as long as we can identify another suitable community room.”
Bender said in a memo to Lunt that, if the renovation proceeds as originally planned, “We could most likely start work on the building sometime late this year if the board decides to have a special town meeting [this fall] to seek voter approval and funding.
“With this timeline, the station should be ready for operation by summer 2022, which would align with the proposed addition to the fire station in Northeast Harbor. This would allow the fire department to continue with operations by relocating staff and equipment to Somesville while construction takes place in Northeast Harbor.”
Bender said that if the renovation of the Somesville fire station is delayed, “this most likely will affect our ability to assume EMS responsibilities for the town.”
In March, the Board of Selectmen agreed that the fire department would take over EMS operations from the Northeast Harbor Ambulance Service by Jan. 1, 2023.