Need for New Fire, Police Stations Explained

BAR HARBOR — The case for a renovation and reconstruction of the police and fire stations that could cost between $3.8 and $5.6 million was made to town councilors by the author of a recent study of the buildings on Dec. 18. While many councilors agreed in theory that a redesign and reconstruction of the connected buildings seems important and necessary, they held off on taking any definite steps.

“This is a great study and it tells us a lot, and I don’t disagree that the police department is undersized,” councilor David Bowden said, but added that several major projects facing the town, including major work on the municipal building, need to be taken into account before any plans for new buildings are made.

Councilor Paul Paradis echoed that sentiment.

“There’s obviously a need here,” he said. But, “my gut feeling is, we need to figure out what all those things are, sit in a special meeting, and prioritize those things.”

Councilors agreed, eventually voting 7-0 to organize such a meeting, to be scheduled only after all of the pertinent information is available. With a cost analysis of potential repairs and upgrades to the municipal building just getting underway, that could be some time.

The police and fire stations were analyzed by architect Carla Haskell and her Design Group Collaborative firm, with an engineering report from Hedefine Engineering and Design. Funding for the $17,000 study was provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus program, in 2009.

According to Haskell’s analysis, the police station faces a serious shortage of space. The building has a total of 1,747 square feet of space, but according to professional standards should have 8,183 square feet, based on the number of officers employed.

The structure, which was constructed in 1988, does not allow for a second story. Even if it were retrofitted for one, that would still not provide for the recommended amount of workspace, Paradis pointed out.

Because of that limitation, the best bet would be to tear it down, move the police department into the fire station, and build a new fire station in its place, Haskell said.

There would be other benefits to the project besides giving the police more space. The new building would allow a “Sally Port” for people to be brought into the station out of the public eye, for one. Also, Haskell pointed out, the public bathrooms that are now attached to the police station would be moved to a different location, which would remove the security risk that is now presented from such proximity.

Councilor Peter St. Germain agreed that separating the two would be a great benefit.

“In light of the things that happen in this world, having a public restroom right next to the command center of the town could be a real problem and a significant safety issue,” he said.

One of the main factors driving the recommendation is the condition of the floor of the fire station, Haskell said. The 100-year-old concrete floor is solid, but the steel carrying beams in it are showing signs of deterioration. This is largely due to water leakage that comes as a result of using it as an apparatus bay for fire trucks and ambulances, she said, and that use should be discontinued.

Haskell’s report presents several options, including one which would involve buying neighboring land and would cost as much as $7.5 million. Public safety officials already have said that this option is too expensive, and that proposals should center on the land available to the town now.

Haskell touted the historic significance of the Fred Savage-designed fire station, and said that under any option, the building should be placed on the historic register. One benefit of doing so would be relaxed code requirements, she said.

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Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]