Breez bus to begin Brunswick service in late August

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council on Monday accepted an agreement to begin Metro Breez commuter bus service Aug. 24.

Although Town Manager John Eldridge introduced the item as simply a formalization of the vote the council took March 6, two councilors felt the contractincluded new information that prevented them from voting in favor. 

The vote was 6-2, with Councilors John Perreault and Dan Harris opposed; Councilor Steve Walker was absent.

The council also advanced several ongoing town projects at the July 17 meeting. 

The Breez agreement codified a March 8 vote to join a two-year pilot program to expand the bus service to Brunswick. Breeze carries passengers to Freeport and Portland in Wi-Fi-equipped, mid-sized vehicles.

While the schedule has yet to be finalized, Breez will offer 13 weekday round trips from Brunswick to Portland, with reduced service Saturday. The agreement states that stops in Brunswick will be at three or four locations to be determined.

The fare will be $3 cash, down from $5 initially floated by Greater Portland Transit District’s Greg Jordan when the council approved the expansion.

The partially grant-funded pilot program requires the town to pay $50,000 for the first year of service, and $60,000 for the second; Bowdoin College will chip in $10,000 per year, since the college’s Portland-based employees are expected to benefit from the expansion, a college spokesman said last March.

The town will assess the success of the service when the contract expires June 30, 2019, Eldridge said.

Although he said he doesn’t oppose the expansion, Perreault took issue with the fact the contract begins retroactively at the start of the fiscal year on July 1, instead of at the start of service on Aug. 24.

“Why are we paying them for two months without any service?” he asked before voting against the agreement.

Other councilors, however, said they didn’t see how the date in the contract belied their March expectation that service would begin in late August.

Eldridge also pointed out that the town will pay less the first year, although that is likely due to diminished grant funding, not the shorter service period.

Harris said he wished the contract codified the number of trips the bus would make.

Other business

Councilors also approved a $650,000 bond to finance the purchase of a new fire engine, which the fire chief urged the council in June to consider after reporting serious damage to the undercarriage of a department’s 20-year-old pumper.

They also set a public hearing Aug. 7 to consider a draft overhaul of the town’s zoning ordinance, although Chairwoman Alison Harris said additional consideration would likely be necessary, given the document’s length and complexity.

And following the June approval by voters to build a locally funded elementary school, councilors said the town is also now accepting applications from residents who want to serve on the building committee.

Composed of four members of the public, five School Board members and two councilors, the committee will provide oversight for construction of the $28 million school, scheduled to open in fall 2020 at the site of the old Jordan Acres Elementary School.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

The Metro Breez commuter bus will expand service to Brunswick on Aug. 24.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.