MOUNT DESERT — Building a new fire station in Northeast Harbor rather than enlarging the existing one is probably the best option for providing the living quarters for firefighters that will be needed in the next few years, Fire Chief Mike Bender told the Board of Selectmen Monday night.
Several board members indicated they agreed, but said they wanted more information, such as a conceptual plan and cost estimate, before making a decision.
Bender had hoped to have that information in time for the selectmen to place an article on the May 6 Town Meeting warrant asking voters to approve funding for the design of either an expansion of the current fire station or construction of a new one. But the deadline for adding articles to the warrant is this coming Monday, March 2, so the matter is hold for the time being.
“They felt it wouldn’t be fair to the taxpayers to try to push this through at the last minute,” Bender said.
Earlier this month, the selectmen authorized him to hire Hedefine Engineering and Design to prepare two concept plans for expanding the existing fire station and ambulance space in the Town Hall building.
“This expansion is in preparation for the fire department’s expected transition to a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week staffing model,” Bender said at the time.
One of the concept plans that Hedefine prepared called for building a one-story extension onto the fire station truck bays at an estimated cost of $2.8 million to $3.33 million. Bender said in a memo to the selectmen that this option would eliminate a number of parking spaces and would require “reconfiguring the parking lot to allow for more efficient fire truck and ambulance traffic flow.”
Hedefine’s second option would involve adding a fourth truck bay to the west side of the fire station and building a second story above all four bays for firefighter living quarters. The cost of that was estimated at $2.65 million to $3.15 million.
The possibility of building a new fire station was not considered until after the two expansion options had been proposed.
“We thought of it at the last minute,” Bender said.
The possible construction site is the wooded knoll across the parking lot from the police station in the direction of the marina.
“Building new construction from the ground up provides more flexibility in addressing our needs than do the renovations described in options one and two,” Bender said in his memo to the selectmen.
“Some of the advantages of this alternative include more options for building design and layout and safer and immediate access to a public travel way for responding vehicles,” he said. “This option also will very minimally impact the existing parking spaces.”