Brunswick councilors OK $150K for fire station upgrades

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council on Monday approved up to $150,000 in new borrowing to update heating and ventilation systems at the Emerson fire station, despite some councilors’ reservations about the project. 

Councilors also agreed to formally request opening the Simpson’s Point boat launch to propeller boats, and approved new rules for clamming licenses.

The proposed fire station project includes installing radiant heating elements in the station’s offices and optimizing the heating system, among other improvements. 

Upgrades also include individual temperature controls in some parts of the building, which were removed from the original building design for cost reasons when the building was constructed on Bath Road in 2006. 

Reports earlier this year from Ouellet and Associates, which designed the building, and Wright Pierce, which reviewed problems with the structure, found that the changes to the settings regulating air and water flow created temperature imbalances in the building. 

Instead of putting out a competitive bid, the town will negotiate a service contract with Johnson and Jordan, the company that installed and has been maintaining the systems, according to Town Manager John Eldridge. 

In an interview Wednesday, Eldridge said town staff had initially considered seeking bids, but determined the town could save money on new engineering designs and bid specifications by going with a company familiar with the building.

Those costs could be around $35,000 – sizable, considering the anticipated $100,000 project cost, Eldridge noted. Administrators have also factored in an additional $15,000 in contingency, he added. 

“The cost of preparing the specifications seemed high compared to the cost of the improvements,” Eldridge said. “What we were trying to do was lower the cost of the entire project.”

The town can still decide to put the project out to bid if negotiations with Johnson and Jordan don’t produce a satisfactory result. 

“We’re not married to this approach,” Eldridge said. 

Some councilors, however, remained wary of the proposed project.

Councilor John Perreault asked for the precise scope of work and amount of material to be installed, noting that preliminary figures on other town projects have gone up “tremendously.”

“I know the work needs to be done,” Perreault said. “I just want to see the numbers.”

The council eventually voted 8-1 to approve the bond.

Councilor Steve Walker, who cast the dissenting vote, said after the meeting he is uncomfortable negotiating with a single contractor and did not think enough information had been provided. 

The town keeps “throwing money” at municipal buildings when project management was “never up to par to begin with,” Walker said.

Simpson’s Point

Councilors on Monday also unanimously approved sending a request to reopen the Simpson’s Point launch to propeller-driven craft from Oct. 1 through April 30. 

Simpson’s Point was closed to propeller boats in 2008 in exchange for opening the nearby, larger Mere Point boat launch, and to mitigate damage to eelgrass in the area.

Prior to the closing, the smaller Simpson’s Point launch on Middle Bay was predominantly used by clammers and fishermen. Since closing, it has become a popular, but unsanctioned, recreation area for swimmers, paddlers and families. 

In an August letter to the council, the town’s River and Coastal Waters Commission noted a 2012 monitoring report to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife that showed the decline in eelgrass in the area was unrelated to motorboat traffic. 

Additionally, commissioners noted serious safety concerns about launching smaller craft used by shellfishers and hunters from Mere Point, where they face a longer, and rougher, trip to areas of upper Middle Bay.

Furthermore, both fishermen and recreational users largely agreed that a seasonal opening was a reasonable compromise at a public hearing in July, commissioners noted. 

Clamming licenses

Commercial shellfishers who accidentally miss the deadline to register for a town license will now be able to correct their mistake, for a price. 

Ordinance amendments approved by the council Monday allow clammers who miss the second Friday in March deadline to submit a notice of intent for a license to the Town Council will still be able to submit it within a week. 

Filing late for a commercial license will incur a $600 fee, and there is a $400 fee for a late bushel license.

Under earlier rules, clammers who did not turn in their notice of intent on time were excluded from receiving a license, Marine Resources Officer Dan Devereaux explained. 

Given that many of the clammers in Brunswick have been licensed by the town for 10 to 15 years, and licences are provided on the basis of seniority, an unclaimed license would often be picked up by a new clammer, who could lose it again the next year if the more experienced fisherman filed his papers correctly, Devereaux said. 

The possibility that people may abuse the new system should be reduced by the high cost of the late fees, he noted. 

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter @mcguiremidcoast.