ISLESBORO — Bid applications are available on Islesboro for the first phase of the Municipal Building Project approved by voters at a special town meeting on Sept. 22.

“Bid packages are available today,” said Municipal Building Project Committee Chair Lauren Bruce on Dec. 15. “The bids are for the first phase only.”

The Municipal Building Project is designed to alleviate crowded conditions in the island’s municipal building, which currently houses the municipal offices, health center and public safety garage.

The project will unfold in three parts. Phase 1 is the construction of a new public safety building. The building will be constructed on the north side of the island.

The second phase is the construction of a new Islesboro Health Center.

The final phase of the project involves the renovation of the current Public Safety Building and Health Center — both currently housed with municipal offices in the Municipal Building.

“It’s pretty cramped in there,” Bruce said of the shared space in the municipal building. “(Fire Chief Murton Durkee) has a closet for an office. (Public Safety Director) Fred Porter has to leave his office to allow his administrative assistant to work.”

Conditions in the Health Center are similar. Treatment spaces double as storage areas, leaving little room for patients and health care providers — and those conditions existed before the pandemic. The need for additional space became clearer as the pandemic progressed.

“There was a need for more space before the pandemic,” said Islesboro Health Center Medical Director Dorie Henning, who has been at the Health Center for eight years. “The pandemic illuminated the need to move forward and create a safer space.”

The Municipal Building on Islesboro is a converted general store. When the Fire Department moved into the facility following renovations, it housed an ambulance and two fire trucks. Today the department has two ambulances and four fire trucks squeezed into the same space.

The meeting room has hosted fire and EMS training sessions but proved inadequate during the pandemic, as only a handful of people could safely meet at one time.

“We’re at a point where the space is inadequate,” said Fire Chief Murton Durkee.

The Health Center was renovated in 1991. While the population on the island has grown, the facilities that house the critical services have not.

Residents agreed, approving the multi-phase project by a vote of 88-30 at the Sept. 22 special town meeting.

Stephen Blatt, of Stephen Blatt Architects in Portland, was hired and will oversee the project.

With the availability of bid packages, the community begins the first phase of the project, which is the construction of a public safety garage to house fire and EMS vehicles, as well as the equipment and supplies associated with those emergency services.

It is anticipated that the Phase 1 bids will be opened in mid- to late January 2023. If all goes well, construction of the new public safety building could begin as early as March 2023.

A separate bid process will be used for construction of the new Islesboro Health Center. The new facility will allow health care providers more space, resources and options for patient care. According to a timeline submitted by the Municipal Building Project committee, the first two phases will be completed by the end of 2023.

The final phase of the project involves renovation of the existing Municipal Building. The current Health Center and Public Safety Garage will be converted into offices and meeting spaces more suitable and efficient for conducting municipal business.

The entire project has a cost estimate of $3.5 million. Half of those funds will be raised through municipal bonds, with the other half coming through fundraising.

“It’s time,” Bruce said of the need for the project. “This is something that benefits everyone.”