Council Meeting, Monday, April 22, 2013. School Budget presentation Thursday, April 25, 2013.
Some highlights for the April 22th meeting meeting:
1) The Town Council will hear a request from Bowdoin College to change the direction of traffic flow on upper Park Row. The College is asking that the one-way traffic on Park Row between the Bath Road and College Street be reversed. You can now enter this section of Park Row just behind the statue of Joshua Chamberlain and drive south to College Street. There is some parallel parking and some diagonal parking along this stretch. The College wants the street to remain one-way but for traffic to move in the opposite direction.
I don’t know why. We’ll be asked to schedule a public hearing on the question for May 6th.
2) The Council will be presented with the Municipal Budget for the next year. We’ll be given a verbal overview of the budget by the town manager. To this point there are no written materials in the council packet. I expect the draft budget will be given to us sometime on Monday.
3) The Council will meet again this Thursday, April 25th at 7:00 PM. The School Superintendent, Paul Perzanoski, will present the proposed school budget. You can read about it in the Forecaster.
As always, the full council packet and all the supporting materials will be available on the town’s website. Hard copies are also available at the Curtis Library.
What’s going on with the former naval air station?
If you read the papers in early January you might have believed that the relationship between the Town of Brunswick and the redevelopment authority, MRRA, are at an all time low. One of our local papers, the Forecaster, characterized it as a “feud” and the Bangor Daily News picked up the story. I hope the substance of the story wass not lost in the circus-like atmosphere. At issue was an important issue of local authority with an enormous impact on the tax base, and tax rate for homeowners. In brief, the Governor’s office had proposed to seek a change in tax law and exempt airplane manufacturing from property taxes. As covered by Steve Mistler in the Portland Press, the Governor’s office has since withdrawn the proposal.
There’s been a lot written and said since the tax change proposal was withdrawn to suggest that relations between the town and MRRA may take on a more conciliatory tone. Dylan Martin, writing for the Forecaster, noted while MRRA intends to pursue their claim about taxation of aeronautical businesses they’ll do so in a less adversarial manner.
While this item is of the table for now, it’s an important one and, as a result I am leaving a page which details my view here.
This is our second significant tax dispute with MRRA; Brunswick citizens may remember this fall when a dispute over a proposed tax increment financing district boiled over. Those TIF negotiations with MRRA stalled but even so the town council was able to directly negotiate a tax break with one of the new tenants on base. As news coverage in the Times Record and Bangor Daily News suggested, Molnlycke had expected that a TIF negotiated between Brunswick and MRRA would have had some pass-through benefits for them. When negotiations between MRRA and the town broke down, the town picked up the ball and dealt directly with Molnlycke. While, it’s theoretically possible for the town to continue to negotiate a tax break with each successive new business at the base, it’s also unwieldy, complicated and probably expensive.
The MRRA board has recently proposed a joint working group to include Town Councilors and MRRA board members; this is an effort to heal a perceived rift and enhance communications. In addition, the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, George Gervais, has met with several Brunswick Councilors to discuss the redevelopment effort and the Town’s relations with MRRA; in his role as Commissioner of the DECD Mr. Gervais is also a member of the MRRA board.
Perhaps negotiations over an umbrella tax agreement with MRRA will resume.
But there’s plenty going on with Navy Housing, the Open Space plan, tax breaks for new businesses, and SMCC, which is expanding faster than had been imagined, Community College enrollment explodes in second year. Chris Cousins of the Bangor Daily News recently reviewed the environmental clean up still to be done on the base. We’ve also learned, through the same news reporting everyone sees, that additional properties on base, including a large hotel, are being sold to George Schott. Mr Schott had already purchased the former Navy housing.
School renovations (This section has not been updated for two months or more).
The School Department working with PDT architects, continues to look at expanding and renovating both the Coffin School and the Junior High. Much greater detail can be found at the school department website. An important feature is the PDT feedback form which they’ll use to gather public input. One thing to be clear about: the school board has already voted not to consider a renovation at Jordan Acres.
For a summary of the issues, and many links to news articles detailing the history of some school facilities issues, see the Brunswick Community United website post dated November 16, 2012.
Another group of citizens which has begun to focus in on a particular niche issue—the location of a proposed new bus garage—has also created a website. They’re mainly residents of Water Street who object to the possible use of the old Times Record building site on Industry Road as a bus garage. Followers of the Times Record building debacle will remember that the Town Council finally decided to tear down the old Times Record Building on September 17th, 2012. Details of that decision are here; for a more in-depth history read this older news item
Math in Focus, occasionally known as Singapore Math, is a new math curriculum now in use at the elementary schools in Brunswick. A parent information night was held October 4th. Joy Prescott has summarized the meeting and issues raised.
Generally speaking parents seem interested in the curriculum itself. However the pace at which the school administrators are moving toward ability based grouping has some parents upset; in addition the parents feel left out of the decision making process. For more detail see Joy’s summary; my thoughts are posted separately.
A rotary on Maine Street? You must be crazy. Back-in diagonal parking on Maine Street? That didn’t work at Maine Street Station.
Take a deep breath and check out the plans. Supporting documentation and sketches for all the proposals—round-abouts, back-in parking, a bike and pedestrian path down the middle of Maine Street—are available on the town’s website.
Moreover, practical experience shows that people actually like a round-about once it gets built. We only have to look as far as Bath for proof of this. A couple of years ago the DOT made plans to put in a round-about at the intersection of Congress Avenue and the State Road at the base of Witch Spring Hill. You’d have thought they’d proposed banning cars altogether from the reaction it got, but everyone loves it now; the intersection is much easier to navigate and traffic keeps moving. Back-in parking, however, has already received a hostilereception in town. It was tried on small scale at Maine Street Station, but abandoned after about a year.
The Downtown and Outer Pleasant Street Master Plan Implementation Committee met on Monday July 30th at 5:30 PM in Maine Street Station council chambers to consider some of these potentially big changes for downtown traffic, cross-walks and parking. Here’s the Forecaster’s coverage of the first meeting, including some citizen reactions.
In the fall of 2012 the Forecaster profiled the reactions of some down business owners to the possible loss of seven parking spots on Maine Street. Some business owners had threatened to leave Brunswick if it happened; some on-street parking would have been lost to accomadate bump-outs for cross walks and work supporting a couple of raised sidewalks. Pedestrian safety on Maine Street has been a problem for years, it appeared as though, for some business owners anyway, the safety of customers was less important than a convenient parking spot for customers. But this all appears to have changed: working with business owners and the police department Councilors Perreault and Knight brought forth a new parking ordinance to increase the availability of short-term parking downtown. This, combined with some other spaces being freed up off Maine Street, seems to have mollified business owners. Raised cross-walks, approved in the council budget of 2012 should make their appearance downtown before the next road construction season is over. However, more dramatic changes—like round-abouts—will have to wait.
Police Station project hit a couple of early bumps in the road but consturction is under way and, at present, under budget.
We learned that the pits dug for visual inspection of the soil quality were not sufficient. Core sampling has revealed soil conditions that drove the cost of the project up at least $175,000, but this was before all the bids were finalized. Once the complete bid package was in costs remain within the original budget. Greater detail on all the foundation issues can be found here.
Downeaster comes to Brunswick.
And of course there’s the return of passenger service Brunswick from the south. Amtrak rolled into town from Boston on November 1st. This marks the first time since 1958 that a passenger trains have come to Brunswick from the south. Town councilors and all sorts of other local celebrities–retired politicians and politicians running for new and higher office mainly–were on board waving and smiling.
About this site. This website was crafted in the fall of 2011 as a campaign tool. Because of the positive response and because I’ve enjoyed working with it, I keep it up as a source of information for constituents. I hope it will enhance my work as a councilor.
Some of the pages on this website give specific statements about my past positions on issues. You’ll be able to see how I have voted and in many cases read news articles on those topics. But other pages simply provide information concerning the history of certain town projects. In most cases you’ll be able to find what I’ve said about issues in the past by reading linked news articles you’ll find at the right under “categories.” I do expect the nature of the website to change somewhat as I make the transition from candidate to councilor. Naturally any views expressed here are mine and not those of the council as a whole.
What’s new? I’m going to try and provide brief updates of issues the council is working on. Where appropriate, I’ll try and direct you to other sources of information, and, of course, you’re always free to contact me or other councilors. Remember lots of information is available on the town’s own website. You’ll also be able to find contact information for other councilors there.
You can get emails when this page is updated by completing the form below. You can also follow me on twitter, or see my facebook page.