School trustees renew support for fire training

BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island High School trustees have reaffirmed their support for the idea of using a small portion of school property for an island-wide firefighter training facility.

The facility would include a “burn” building, where firefighters could practice fighting interior fires, a parking lot for fire trucks and personal vehicles, and possibly a small classroom building.

At a meeting in October, several members of the trustees board expressed skepticism that enough of the available parcel is suitable for building.

“I don’t think it’s going to be practical,” trustee Steve Hudson said at the time.

But at the trustee’s meeting earlier this month, Hudson said he was in favor of the chiefs continuing to explore the feasibility of building the training facility on the school property.

“Let’s see what they can produce for plans and see if it’s actually going to work,” he said.

High school Principal Matt Haney and school system Superintendent Howard Colter said they supported the concept.

“The real estate we’re talking about is not prime for a school facility,” Colter said. “It is not of high value to us.”

The fire chiefs have said that a training facility, centrally located on the island, would help with the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters.

High school trustees Chairman Sandy McFarland said, “There’s not a fire department on the island that is overstaffed. I think anything we can do to support training and possible recruitment is to the advantage of all the towns.”

The trustees voted 6-1 to renew their endorsement of the concept of having a fire training facility on school property. Michael Sawyer cast the dissenting vote.

The site being considered for the training facility is between Eagle Lake Road and the school’s baseball field, which is sometimes used for soccer as well.

Colter said that while he supports the idea of locating the facility in that area, he would not want it to be an “eyesore” or to interfere with any school activities.

“We wouldn’t want the training that was going on to cause a great cloud of smoke during a soccer game,” he said.

Then he jokingly added, “Well, maybe we do want a cloud of smoke, depending on who’s ahead.”

Turning serious again, Colter said, “We think it’s possible to be good neighbors and work together.”

Earlier this year, the CES engineering firm conducted a preliminary evaluation of the site, looking at soil type, location of ledge and wetlands, wildlife habitat and water supply. They concluded that the site is “generally suitable for the intended development.”

The next step, according to the chiefs, is to conduct a more detailed site study and develop a preliminary sketch plan for the proposed training facility. Both CES and Hedefine Engineering and Design have submitted proposals for that work.

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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