Brunswick board pares possible school bus garage choices

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BRUNSWICK — The School Board on Wednesday narrowed to two the possible locations for a new bus garage.

At its second full meeting on the School Deparment’s Master Facilities Plan, the board voted unanimously to drop the most expensive garage option, at Brunswick Commerce Center on Route 1, which was estimated to cost more than $1 million for land development alone. The property was also farthest from all the schools.

“I don’t think we should spend any more money there. Right down the line, it seems like a waste,” board Chairman Jim Grant said. 

The decision narrows the choices to the Brunswick Industrial Park on Industrial Park Way and property at 6 Industry Way, the former Times Record building, which has been the target of vocal neighborhood opposition.

Lyndon Keck, the project’s principal architect at PDT Architects, presented the difference in costs between the two remaining sites on Wednesday, and showed revised plans for Coffin Elementary School and Brunswick Junior High School based on feedback from teachers and board members.

Keck also said building the bus garage at Brunswick Landing is essentially off the table, because the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority has said there isn’t land available.

“I don’t know what more I can do,” Keck said. ” … We’ve called and we’ve asked and we’ve been told there’s nothing available at this time, and it may be two or three years from now.”

The Brunswick Industrial Park will cost $295,000 more than 6 Industry Way for site acquisition alone, Keck said, because the town already owns the Industry Way property.

According to estimates from DeLuca-Hoffman Associates, an engineer firm in South Portland, the land development cost of the industrial park property is more than $804,000, or about $165,000 more than the Industry Way property.

Keck said the Brunswick Industrial Park site will cost more, in part, because of increased sewer, paving and earthwork costs, and there is wetland area that needs to be addressed, which will cost nearly $68,000 alone.

For planned renovations at Coffin Elementary School, Keck presented a more compact design that wouldn’t require kindergarten students to walk a long distance to the cafeteria.

A new wing that includes new kindergarten classrooms was previously planned to run parallel with the school’s two existing wings at the school’s south end, but it now runs perpendicular to the two on the school’s east end and connects to them at both ends.

As a result, this new plan will create an enclosed courtyard, but Keck said due to security concerns, outdoor access wouldn’t be allowed. However, because the new wing was moved, he said there will be more room for fields at the school’s south end.

The plan came with two configurations: one where the new wing would be wider and closer to Barrows Street, and the second where it would be more narrow and have a second floor for second-grade students.

Keck said the two-story design could potentially cost less.

For Brunswick Junior High School, Keck said his team refrained from having common areas for each grade and instead created a multi-purpose room that could be used by as many as 100 students. The suggestion came from four groups of teachers at the school.

“And they said they would use it in lots of different ways,” he said, including group instruction and physical activities.

At the end of the meeting, Keck suggested the bond for the facilities plan could go to a town vote later than June, which was discussed as a possibility at previous meetings

“The design process is taking longer than we expected it to,” Keck said. “We’re expecting to finish our work at the end of February. Our firm’s experience with locally funded referendums is they’re a lot of work, and you have to give yourself lots of time to talk to the taxpayers, to be able to make sure they feel comfortable, that they understand how the money’s being spent.”  

Another architect firm, Harriman Associates, projected a $21 million bond for the plan’s first phase. An earlier calculation from Town Manager Gary Brown found that amount would translate to a 6-7 percent increase in property taxes.

Board member Rich Ellis reminded the public the School Department is still soliciting feedback for the facilities plan on the department’s website.

“It’s been a little light on the feedback thus far,” Ellis said, “so I want to make people aware that means of communication is available.”

The board will meet again sometime in early January to further discuss the facilities plan, though a date has not been scheduled.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.