Brunswick council shuffles meetings to speed move to new Town Hall

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BRUNSWICK — Several town committees will meet at Curtis Memorial Library and Hawthorne School in December and January as the town prepares to accelerate its move into new offices by late March 2014.

But it will only happen if the Town Council is able to agree on office renovation costs estimated to be in the ballpark of $800,000.

At Monday’s council meeting, Town Manager Gary Brown outlined the town’s accelerated plan to move its offices from 28 Federal St. to the first two floors of 85 Union St., currently known as the McLellan Building.

Under a 2011 agreement, the town is receiving the Union Street property from Bowdoin College in exchange for the former Longfellow Elementary School, which reopened as the Edwards Center for Art and Dance this fall.

When the town begins occupying the building next year, Bowdoin will be able to continue to occupy the third floor for up to 10 years with no rent.

A major component of the accelerated plan is for the town to vacate its current Council Chambers in Room 217 on Brunswick Station by Dec. 9. The town has been renting space from Bowdoin College at a discounted rate since September 2009. 

The town’s move will allow construction manager Warren Construction to simultaneously perform renovations on Room 217 for Bowdoin and the new Council Chambers at 85 Union St., which is expected to be ready by February 2014.

In the meantime, several committees – including the Town Council, School Board and Planning Board – will have to move their meetings to the Morrell Meeting Room at Curtis Memorial Library, 23 Pleasant St., and the conference room at the Hawthorne School, 46 Federal St.

Brown said the town’s TV department is currently researching the feasibility of using wireless cameras to broadcast meetings from the Morrell Meeting Room on the town’s local-access TV channel.

If that doesn’t work, he said, the town would use less-sophisticated camera equipment to record the meetings for rebroadcast the next day.

Brown said the accelerated plan will allow the town to save up to $15,000 in renovation costs and move into its new offices by March 24, 2014 – more than a month ahead of schedule – because Bowdoin would be able to move its offices out of 85 Union St. sooner and into Room 217 of Brunswick Station.

However, the total costs of renovating 85 Union St. won’t be known until at least Nov. 4, when the Town Council meets again.

The council committee charged with overseeing renovations to the future Town Hall is expected to review preliminary plans and cost estimates on Thursday.

On Monday, Brown said he wasn’t willing to share a preliminary estimate on renovation costs because renovation committee members could have made changes to Warren Construction’s proposed budget by the next council meeting.

However, the town manager said the current figure is “not way out of line” with a $800,000 figure presented in this year’s Capital Improvement Program.

Councilor Margo Knight, a member of the renovation committee, ensured other councilors she won’t come back with a surprise in November.

“We don’t want to bring you a figure that we don’t agree with, that we think might be outrageous or might be too cheap,” Knight said.

Councilors agreed that if they couldn’t find a consensus on renovations costs by the time committees are expected to begin meeting in new locations, they would scrap the accelerated plans and continue to meet at the Council Chambers at Brunswick Station. 

But if the town is able to continue with those plans, Brown indicated it could help Wiscasset-based Coastal Enterprises more quickly move its headquarters and about 60 jobs to town.

He said the nonprofit company has expressed interest in possibly beginning construction of its new headquarters at the current Town Hall and Recreation Center properties on Federal Street sooner than its expected closing date of April 1, 2014.

The town is expected to transfer the properties to Brunswick Development Corp. by that time, which will then allow BDC to close the $300,000 sale with CEI.

CEI is researching the feasibility of moving its headquarters to the Federal Street lots after signing a purchase option agreement in August.

Brown has already signed an agreement to sell the Town Hall property to BDC for $225,000.

In fall 2012, the Town Council agreed to transfer the Recreation Center property to BDC in exchange for land for the new Police Station at 85 Pleasant St.

The Recreation Department is expected to fully occupy the new Recreation Center at 220 Neptune Drive by the beginning of November.

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