Harpswell Neck Fire and Rescue’s Irving F. Chipman Station. (J.W. OLIVER PHOTO)

A major renovation of Harpswell Neck Fire and Rescue’s Irving F. Chipman Station should be complete around mid-September.

The original estimate for the project was around $560,000, according to Fire Chief David Mercier. “As in any renovation, we’ve run into unexpected costs,” he said.

“We had to eliminate our existing furnace and create a whole new heating system for the building, which we didn’t anticipate at the time we were doing it,” Mercier said.

General contractor Doten’s Construction Inc., of Freeport, started work in April. The renovations are transforming the building’s first floor. They will double the size of the station’s day room and create office and training space.

“In order to attract and retain our own members, as well as provide a comfortable working environment for per diems, it was necessary to redesign and update our first floor,” Mercier said.

Harpswell Neck Fire and Rescue has volunteers who respond to calls from home or work, while the town of Harpswell employs part-time and per diem firefighters who staff a fire station from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and respond to calls anywhere in town.

At present, the town firefighters spend their time between calls at the Orr’s and Bailey Islands Fire Department station on Orr’s Island. After the renovation, they will divide their time between the Neck and Orr’s Island stations.

Before the renovations, the Harpswell Neck station was not suitable as a workplace.

“The original station was built in 1950 as a two-bay garage, basically, with an upstairs,” Mercier said. The department added onto the south side of the station in the 1970s and the north side later, with both additions designed for an unmanned station.

“We looked at a full renovation, which included the second floor, but the cost estimate was prohibitive,” Mercier said, at about $915,000.

The department decided to renovate the first floor for now, although it still intends to renovate the second floor in the future. After work is complete on the first floor, “we’re going to be able to sit down and have a real understanding of what this phase cost us,” Mercier said. Then the department can talk about the feasibility of the second-floor work and how to fund it.

The independent nonprofit is paying for the renovations from its reserves, with no cost to taxpayers. The expense will take a deep bite out of its savings. “It’s not going to completely deplete them, but it’s going to make a substantial reduction,” Mercier said.

When work is complete, the department plans to host an open house so the public can see the results.