SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine — Police Chief David Chapais has worked in an office roughly the size of a handicapped-accessible bathroom stall and is temporarily sharing space with Fire Chief Sam Chisholm at the town fire station, completed three years ago.
But after years of exploring options and months of renovation, Chapais expects to be able to move into his own, more comfortable office when the town’s new police station is completed toward the end of next month.
“It’s hard to remember what it looked like,” Chapais said Wednesday about the first floor of the town office, which was constructed in the 1800s. “It looks like [the contractors] are close to being on target.”
The town hopes to finish the project Nov. 19.
Robin Bennett, Southwest Harbor’s town manager, said Wednesday the renovation took a little longer than originally anticipated because the town realized it needed to upgrade its emergency generator in conjunction with the Police Department renovation.
The previous generator, she said, would not have been strong enough to keep the entire municipal building lit and powered in the event of an outage.
“I’m looking forward to them getting done because right now we have no heat,” Bennett said with a chuckle.
The police and fire departments used to be crammed together into the first floor of the Municipal Building, but the Fire Department got a much larger home in late 2006 when a $1.1 million station farther north on Main Street was completed. At the old location, notches had to be cut in garage doors so firetrucks could fit in the bays, and firefighters could barely turn around between the tightly parked trucks.
In early 2007, the Police Department expanded somewhat into the space where the Fire Department used to be, but its need for improved facilities remained. Options the town considered, dating to before the Fire Department moved, included building a new police station next to the new fire station, moving the Police Department to an existing building near the town office, or renovating the first floor completely.
Last year, voters rejected a proposal to build a new station. In May, after the town received a low-interest $800,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, voters approved a measure to renovate the first floor into a larger police station.
The loan is expected to cover the entire cost of the renovations, including the $40,000 purchase of the new generator.
The renovation will feature larger offices, a locker room, a training room, storage space for evidence, and a garage bay big enough for one police cruiser. The department lacked many of these features in its old configuration.
Chapais said he expects the town will hold some sort of event to celebrate the completion after police move into the renovated space. He said the new station will benefit more people than just his officers and dispatchers.
“It’s more public-friendly,” he said.