TRENTON, Maine — Armed with $1.2 million in federal stimulus money, the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport is completing plans for construction of a firefighting building.
County officials received word recently that the airport was eligible for the funding for the building, which is the last piece the airport needs to complete its transition to a Class I airport. The funds will come through the Federal Aviation Administration.
When Colgan Air, the company that provides regular flights to and from the airport, decided to switch from 19-seat passenger planes to 34-seat planes, the airport was required to become a Class I airport. That required the airport to train and outfit a new rescue and firefighting department.
The airport trained seven people including three full-time firefighters and bought a rapid intervention vehicle, or RIV. for aircraft rescue and firefighting. The training included certification in aircraft rescue firefighting, including live fire training, as well as emergency medical training. All the firefighters are EMT basic-certified.
Those pieces were in place by January, when Colgan made the switch to the larger planes, according to Allison Navia, the assistant airport manager.
“If they were not trained and in place, the planes would not be allowed to come in,” Navia said Thursday. “Fifteen minutes before and after every aircraft operation, they have to be suited up and ready to go. Every takeoff and landing, these guys need to be ready for anything.”
The rescue and firefighting crew and vehicle have been housed in the airport’s snow maintenance equipment garage. The new building, which will be near the airport’s back parking lot, will allow the emergency department to move into new quarters, Navia said.
The building is divided into two sections, she said. An administrative area includes a training area, conference room and the watch area. The watch area juts out from the building and has large windows that will give the crew a view of aircraft approaching and landing on the main runway.
The other half of the building has two vehicle bays to house the emergency vehicle. It provides room for expansion if needed in the future, she said.
At this point, the plans are still in the concept stage, according to airport manager Bob Cossette.
“We still need to prepare the detailed plans and specs,” Cossette said.
The project is scheduled to go out to bid by the end of this month, he said, and construction should begin by June 15.
Because it is funded through the federal stimulus program, the project had to be “shovel-ready” and construction has to begin within 120 days after the president signed the stimulus legislation.
Navia said the project is expected to take between five and six months to complete, and they should be ready to move into the firefighting building by Christmas.
The stimulus money will cover the cost of designing and constructing the building, but the airport will have to foot the bill for furnishing it. Cossette said the airport did not have final figure for those expenses yet.