BRUNSWICK — In response to the school shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida, last month, the Brunswick Town Council adopted a resolution urging action to curb gun violence.
Councilor Jane Millett presented the resolution at the council’s March 19 meeting. It passed 8-1, with Councilor David Watson opposed.
Also on Monday, councilors held a public hearing on the Cook’s Corner Connector Road Project.
Brunswick councilors adopted the resolution calling on lawmakers “to prioritize the protection of students, school system employees and residents by passing legislation that more effectively regulates access to firearms in the interest of public safety, funds public health research on firearms-related issues, and advances mental health supports.”
Millett said the resolution was based on one adopted by Fairfax County, Virginia, and she brought it to the council as a reaction to the events in Parkland, as well as the “numerous mass shootings” that have occurred in the U.S. in recent years.
“This is a pretty innocuous resolution, but at least it states we’re going to support some legislation that will hopefully curb these mass shootings,” Millett said. “I’m heartened by the students of Parkland, Florida; I’m ashamed that they have to take over the burden of trying to make this happen when their parents have not been able to do it.”
The resolution states that according to a 2016 report in The American Journal of Medicine, “among high-income nations, 91 percent of children under 15 years old and 92 percent of youth between 15 and 24 years old who have been killed by bullets lived in the United States.”
Watson, the only councilor opposed to the resolution, said it “did not go far enough or deep enough and address the real issues.”
“Gun violence is a tool being used,”he said. “It could be many things. Right now Texas is being plagued by bombings, so it’s more than gun issues, that’s not the problem. The problem is mental issues and we need to expand on that.”
Watson added he thinks bullying and harassment in schools is a related issue and need to be better addressed.
Chairman John Perrault and Councilor Stephen Walker noted the document urges advancing mental health supports, but said mental health issues shouldn’t be blamed for gun violence.
“People with mental health (issues) occur throughout other countries as well,” Walker said. “We have too lax gun laws in this country.”
Millett said she thinks an “awful lot of blame” is put on mentally ill people because of specific instances of violence.
“The vast majority of mentally ill people are well contained if they’re on their meds and they have care,” she said. “So I don’t want to single out that population to be stigmatized with all of the blame for this problem.”
Resident Dan Dowling, however, echoed Watson’s concerns, and urged the council “not to approve” the resolution, saying it’s “too focused on guns in particular and not focused on what the real issue is, which is violence in general.”
Perrault said the resolution “is a first step,” and if councilors wanted to bring another resolution forth in the future they could.
Councilors also held a public hearing on funding the $2.5 million Cook’s Corner Connector Road project, and voted 8-1 to adopt an ordinance that will authorize the planning, construction and funding of the road. Road plans were unanimously approved by the Planning Board Jan. 9.
The road, which will connect Gurnet Road with Admiral Fitch Avenue, is designed to provide easier access between Brunswick Landing and Cook’s Corner. After the town receives bid proposals and awards the bid this spring, construction will start in the fall.
Walker was opposed, stating the initial project proposal said private developers would be “shouldering a lot more” than 10 percent of the total cost.
Finance and Economic Development Director Linda Smith presented the cost breakdown. Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority will contribute $200,000, and Katz’s Properties, Priority Real Estate Group and Brunswick Landing Ventures will contribute a total of $57,000.
A third of the project’s cost will be covered by a Business Partnership Initiative Grant from the Maine Department of Transportation; bonds of up to $1.2 million will finance construction. Tax increment finance districts at Brunswick Landing and Cook’s Corner will fund the debt service on the bonds.
Councilors noted the road’s potential to expand the tax base, connect the east and west sides of town, and relieve traffic congestion, but Dowling and resident Richard Fisco spoke out against the cost of the project.
“If it’s TIF money, if the state’s paying, well guess what? I’m paying,” Dowling said.
Town Manager John Eldridge said ultimately, the road will be an asset to Brunswick.
“Much the same way as we think the industrial park that we built in the ’80s and continue to build out throughout time has paid back in terms of growing the tax base, that’s what this is about,” he said.
Brunswick Town Councilor Jane Millett, right, reads a resolution against gun violence March 19, as Chairman John Perrault, far left, and Town Manager John Eldridge listen. The resolution urges lawmakers to pass legislation that “more effectively” regulates firearms, funds public-health research on firearms-related issues, and advances support for mental health.