ISLESBORO — The Health & Safety Building Committee held a question-and-answer session on Zoom Jan. 20 so residents could hear from Public Safety Director and EMS chief Fred Porter and Fire Chief Murt Durkee about why their office space is no longer adequate and ask questions of both men. Committee Chairman Lauren Bruce began the meeting, then gave Porter the floor.

He talked about the lack of privacy and security, for example, for evidence storage, and the inadequacy of the space for EMS trainings, especially given the social distancing required to avoid spreading COVID-19. He recalled times he had been interviewing victims when they were interrupted by someone else coming into the common meeting room, and then the victim was no longer willing to talk to him. He said he has sometimes had to hold meetings or make phone calls in the garage in order to have privacy or if the meeting room was in use.

He also said there is no adequate space for an emergency operations center, which adds stress to the already demanding situation of an emergency. In addition, the EMS service has a $20,000 Sim-Man training dummy it does not have enough space to set up. Porter also said neither he nor Durkee has an office. He shares an office and Durkee works in a closet-like space that used to be a meat locker.

Asked whether the improvements he seeks would help with recruitment and retention of staff and volunteers, Porter said they would. “Professionalism is the most important part of the work that we do,” he said, adding that a professional environment in the workplace was necessary to retain people. He would like to expand the existing meeting room, create a space for secure evidence storage, a separate interview room and offices, as well as an emergency operations room that could double as a computer lab where EMS and fire volunteers could fill out their reports.

Durkee recapped the history of the building’s use by the town, saying the Fire and EMS departments moved there in 1990. He noted that it was a good space for them for a long time, but, “We’re at a point where (the space) is not adequate … the walls are getting closer.”

Like Porter, he said the lack of privacy for meetings and the close quarters have become a problem. He also noted that the indoor air quality is poor, especially in the summer when lack of ventilation makes the space uncomfortably warm. There is no air conditioning, he said, and just one window they can open for ventilation.

Responding to a question, he said the increase in the island’s population and the fact that the population is aging have led to a greater need for EMS services. In addition, new regulations and the public health requirements imposed by COVID have hastened the obsolescence of the space.

Porter offered to show anyone who would like to visit around the space if they call him in advance.

The next virtual question-and-answer session will feature Health Center Director Dorie Henning and will take place Wednesday, Jan. 26, at 11 a.m. Call or email the Town Office to receive the link.

Related Headlines

filed under: