Brunswick pursues grant for boat builders, repair bond for Town Hall

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council on Monday gave the go-ahead for staff to apply for a state grant on behalf of East Boothbay-based boat-building company Washburn & Doughty.

The company last month announced it would move some operations to Brunswick Landing. But it needs to make more than $1 million in improvements at 54 Orion St., the former Brunswick Naval Air Station ground support equipment maintenance building.

The town is asking for $400,000 from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development to complete the work. Linda Smith, Brunswick’s business development director, said in an interview Tuesday that if the company doesn’t receive the money, it may not be able to finance the move.

The issue, Smith explained, is that Washburn & Doughty needs to put significant investment into a leased property. The $1 million would pay for four new cranes, a new gas delivery system, and a ventilation system for welding.

“If you’re doing good math, you’re asking, ‘is it right to spend good money on an asset I won’t own?’,” Smith said. “We would like this company to be on Brunswick Landing … so we are asking the state if they will look at a grant.”

Smith said the town has a good track record at securing state Community Development Block Grants for private companies like Washburn & Doughty.

In the two years she has worked for the town, Brunswick has secured such grants for TechPlace, Frosty’s Donuts, and Gelato Fiasco, Smith said.

In application filings, Washburn & Doughty says it will create 15 new jobs in Brunswick, with the potential for 25 in the next three to five years.

The jobs, which include welders, shipfitters, and commercial drivers, pay salaries that range from $15-$20 an hour.

Washburn & Doughty constructs boats like passenger ferries, research vessels, and tugboats. The company holds a 25-30 percent market share, based on volume, of the “Z–drive” tugboat market, according to its application materials.

Z–drive tugs have propellers that rotate on a 360 degree axis, Washburn and Doughty Vice President Matt Maddox said Monday.

All of the company’s boats are built at their East Boothbay facility. Washburn & Doughty is hoping to move some if its steel boat-building operations to Brunswick.

Smith said the company is likely to hear back about the grant application in June.

Deteriorating trim

The council also voted Monday to set a public hearing on May 16 on a proposal to spend $200,000 to repair exterior trim on Town Hall.

In a memo to the council, Town Manager John Eldridge said the town was aware of trim deterioration when it bought the building from Bowdoin College.

In 2014, maintenance to first-floor windows uncovered water damage and rot.

The manager recommended authorizing a bond, not to exceed $200,000, to replace the trim with composite material to prevent further decay.

The public hearing on the project will be held at Town Hall at 7 p.m.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Washburn & Doughty, an East Boothbay-based boat-building company, specializes in building Z-drive tugs, like the one shown above. Depending on the outcome of a state grant, the company may move some of its operations to Brunswick Landing.Several areas of wooden trim are deteriorating on Town Hall. The Town Council set a public hearing for May 16 on a $200,000 bond to repair the damage.

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Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.
  • Chew H Bird

    From an April 14th 2014 article in the Bangor newspaper:

    Eldridge said the town will soon determine how to move forward with an estimated $125,000 project to replace the wooden trim on the exterior of the Town Hall building, which is rotting in some places.

    So… What happened to increase the cost from $125,000.00 to $200,000.00? “Soon” typically does not translate from April of 2014 to May of 2016. The “rot” was known when the town purchased the building (which escalated in costs from initial estimates of $200,000.00 total to over a million dollars when everything was tabulated).

    And now our town manager expects the taxpayers of Brunswick to pony up interest on a bond to fix the problems that were known at the time of purchase to anyone who casually looked at the building?

    It is this type of mis-management, failure to fully inspect, contracting without thinking, and failure to demonstrate the slightest common sense that is a significant problem with town government Brunswick. The solution of borrowing money to fix a problem that was known about at the time of purchase is not a solution… It is a method used by government to spread out the costs while hoping town residents forget about the escalated costs of the original budget which were under estimated to get us (the taxpayers) to go along with this poorly managed and even more poorly executed scheme.