By Sarah Hinckley and Becky Pritchard
SOUTHWEST HARBOR — All of the schools in the Mount Desert Island Regional School System were closed last Thursday because of unsafe road conditions following the powerful wind and rain storm.
Pemetic Elementary School and the Tremont Consolidated School remained closed Friday; that morning the school buildings were among the more than 1,500 homes and businesses on Mount Desert Island without power.
The Southwest Harbor Town Office was open both days. “I don’t think our customers know we’re here,” said Administrative Assistant Bob Salsbury from the office on Friday.
Powered by a generator, computers, phones and the internet were on as well as the dispatching system serving the police and fire departments and the ambulance service.
Employees were scheduled to work a full day at the town office. Power to Main Street returned around 1:15 p.m. Friday, according to Gary Caron, a police officer and dispatcher.
Electricity was not restored until 7 p.m. Friday evening at the Pemetic Elementary building, according to a school custodian, because it is served by the Clark Point Road line.
Employees of the Tremont Town Office attempted to open for business on Friday but there was no power there and throughout much of the town. Without power the computer and phone systems were not functional, making conducting any business such as issuing permits or registering vehicles basically impossible.
Town Clerk Katie Dandurand, with the help of Board of Selectman Chair Jamie Thurlow, made the call to close the office at noon.
Power was restored to the Tremont school building by about 3 p.m.; the town office and most residents also saw the lights come back on Friday.
School officials said it’s too early to tell how or whether the missed days will be made up at the end of the year.
In Bar Harbor and Mount Desert, the police and fire departments also had their hands full Thursday morning responding to downed trees, closing roads and directing traffic as needed, according to Jim Willis, police chief for both towns.
Overnight staff stayed on, and daytime staff came in early to respond, he said.
Indian Point Road was the “hot spot” in Bar Harbor, Willis said. At one point, a police cruiser was trapped on that road: As it arrived at one downed tree, a second tree fell behind it.
Lower Main Street between Cromwell Harbor Road and the Jackson Laboratory was closed for most of the day Thursday for a tree fallen on an electrical line.
According to Lieutenant David Kerns of the Bar Harbor Police Department, Emera Maine crews cut the tree back enough to get road open from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m. to accommodate afternoon commuter traffic leaving the lab. After that, Kerns said, the road was closed for another hour to clear the tree and the electrical line.
Willis said the public was very cooperative with all road closures and detours.
The Mount Desert Police Department began sharing a radio frequency with the town’s other emergency services: the Fire Department and Northeast Harbor Ambulance Service. This was a scheduled change, Willis said, but it gave police an extra frequency to use during the storm.
The new shared frequency will also be used as needed by Bar Harbor Police Department, Willis said.
Bar Harbor and Mount Desert operate under an agreement which allows for the sharing of police department staff to make the two departments more efficient. There are three officers on duty in the two towns at any given time, Kerns said, and they may be Bar Harbor officers or Mount Desert officers.
Each town maintains a separate dispatch station, though newly hired dispatchers are cross-trained to work in both towns, Kerns said.
Combining some dispatch work with Southwest Harbor has also been a topic of discussion this year. Officials in Southwest Harbor are exploring the option of moving the overnight dispatch shift to the Mount Desert Police Department.
Willis indicated that, from a staffing standpoint, a single, centralized dispatch center for the island would be ideal. But he also acknowledged that maintaining a single dispatch center for the island towns would not be universally popular.
“People are invested in having their own dispatch; I know they are in this town,” he told the Mount Desert Board of Selectmen earlier this month. “And Southwest Harbor has a long history of wanting to retain theirs as well. But I don’t know how long we can sustain it.”