BAR HARBOR — The four-year-old Port Security Building is fully operational, officials said, but is not being used “to its full potential.”
The building was built in 2013. The $600,000 cost was funded largely by a 2009 grant from the United States Department of Homeland Security and $127,000 in cruise ship fees from Bar Harbor.
The building has three offices. When it was designed, the plan was for them to be used by Harbormaster Charles Phippen, Lt. David Kerns and former Police Chief Nate Young.
When the building was completed, Young moved his office from the Firefly Lane building. When current chief James Willis took over the next year, he moved his office back to the main building.
“I wanted to be in the building with the officers,” Willis said. “Being down there just wasn’t as connected [to the rest of the force.]”
Willis said that there are meetings at the office and that he works out of the office on occasion, but the department is looking for better ways to use the space.
The building includes a heat pump that uses the seawater under the building instead of outside air. The temperature range of the seawater is smaller than that of the outside air, making heating and cooling slightly more efficient.
“The system is particularly suited to this building because there is no place to store fuel, we have a lot of windows, and there may be a cooling load in the summer, and it is so close to the water. We also didn’t want a big air handler sitting on top of a very visible roof,” said Carla Haskell in 2013. Haskell designed the building with Ellsworth-based Design Group Collaborative.
Phippen said that there were problems keeping pressure inside the heat pump in the first year of operations, but now the system is “operating properly.”
“The problem was pinpointed at the Keel cooler,” Phippen said. “We had special flanges made to [maintain] a pressurized loop.”
Phippen said that the building was active during the summer and fall cruise ship season. He said that a lot of the United States Customs and Border Protection staff used the meeting rooms and offices for their duties.
“The Port Security Building was a very busy place this season,” Phippen said. “We had a record number of ships and the associated activity [of] Customs and Border Protection; this building is used a lot.”
“[The Bar Harbor Police Department] utilized the space upstairs during safety and security details associated with shore excursions and passenger traffic,” Phippen said.
Town Manager Cornell Knight said that the town has no plans to make changes in the use of the space.