MOUNT DESERT, Maine — After years of enduring cramped space and limited access in parts of its main office building, the town is moving ahead with plans to build a 2,500 square-foot addition to the structure.
Durlin Lunt, Mount Desert’s town manager, said Friday that the town hopes to begin construction sometime next month. The project, he added, is expected to rectify several shortcomings in the town office, located in the village of Northeast Harbor.
Lunt said Friday that state officials have urged the town to alter the design plans so they include an elevator. He said the town office currently does not have one and that the town has been encouraged to put one in by the state fire marshal’s office, which enforces Americans with Disabilities Act building codes, and by the Maine Human Rights Commission.
If the town does not include an elevator in the project, it could face lawsuits for not conforming with ADA, Lunt wrote in a July 11 memo to selectmen. The current plans for the addition do include other ADA compliant features, such as handicapped accessible ramps, bathroom facilities and handrails.
Lunt said he plans to ask selectmen on Monday, July 16, to approve a design change to the project so it will include an elevator.
The town manager said the low bidder on the addition is Coastal Builders of Trenton, which has agreed to do the work for $509,000. He said the contract has not been signed yet, however.
Lunt said that in May, local voters approved setting aside $665,000 of undesignated fund surplus for the addition. With the low bid coming in at just over $500,000, he said, the town has roughly another $150,000 to spend on installing an elevator.
“I don’t think an elevator would cost anywhere near that much,” Lunt said Friday.
Coastal Builders has told town officials it is interested in including the elevator work in a renegotiated bid, according to Lunt.
The addition will address another code issue — emergency egress for the office of Fire Chief Mike Bender. His existing office, tucked in among the concrete foundation walls, does not meet safety codes because there is only one way in and out. A new, first-floor office for Bender will include a doorway to a hall and window egress to the outdoors.
The project also will include a new garage bay for the police department so its officers will have a warm, dry place to park cruisers in the winter. On the second floor, it will include new, larger employee offices, meeting space and an office equipment room, Lunt said.
One benefit of the addition, which will have 1,250 square feet of space on each of its two floors, is that it will free up the current fire chief’s office for other use.
The town office is cramped for storage space, the town manager said. An alcove in the selectmen’s meeting room is blocked off and being used for storage, which is why the room’s current capacity is only 50 people rather than 74. He said the fire chief’s current office may have only a single door for egress in the event of an emergency, but it is a relatively large space well-suited for storage.
“It’s a fairly good-sized space he’s got down there,” Lunt said.
The town manager said town officials have been talking about building the addition for the past five or six years. Once construction begins, he said, it likely would take about six months to complete.