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BRUNSWICK — Town councilors voted 8-1 Monday night to set a public hearing Feb. 19 on funding to rebuild the dilapidated Brunswick High School outdoor track.
Councilor Jane Millett was opposed. She said “reconstruction of the track is being put ahead of finding a site for a new fire station and that just isn’t right.”
If passed by the Town Council, the funding ordinance would authorize not more than $1 million for planning and reconstruction of the track. The funds could be authorized at the public hearing or at a later council meeting.
Originally, the track was just going to be resurfaced. However, it was discovered the foundation is not likely to hold up much longer, so an entire reconstruction project is needed, according to advocates.
The Brunswick School Board voted Jan. 17 to request funding for the project, which, under a proposed bonding ordinance, would appropriate $250,000 from unassigned funds, allow for the acceptance of grants and contributions, and fund a capital advance that would be repaid from the School Department budget.
The capital improvement funds used for the track would start to be paid off in two years, after an air quality project at the junior high school is complete, according to Town Manager John Eldridge.
Additionally, RunBrunswick, a nonprofit organization, has already raised $115,000 for the reconstruction. Formed in 2017, RunBrunswick has a 10-person board of directors, made up mostly of parents with children in the school system.
The full reconstruction project would include replacing the base of the track, and repaving and resurfacing the surface.
Millet, the only person to speak against the project Monday, said she is “concerned and frustrated because we are putting this ahead of the fire station and the fire station has got to be done, there’s absolutely no question about it. We’ve known for 25 years about the fire station and we haven’t even voted on that yet.”
According to town officials, if the council passes the ordinance, residents who oppose the spending – if any – can overturn the decision and force a vote at the polls by collecting signatures from 5 percent of registered voters within 20 days of the council vote.
A council vote against the funding request would be final and residents would have no recourse.
Brunswick High School has not held a track meet since 2016. Although practices are still held locally, all meets are held in Lisbon, which, according to RunBrunswick co-founder Barry Logan, is an inconvenience for students.
“At one time we had almost a thousand kids come to use the track at track meets, but unfortunately we cannot do that with the condition it is in,” Logan said. “It’s absolutely central to the community and our students and athletes to get this done.”
“We see a great value for physical education, including track and field,” he said. “It is a low-cost sport for student-athletes and to the community.”
The junior high school track and field team also utilizes the high school track, which would also be open to anyone in the community when it is not being used by students.
“It’s been interesting going to these council meetings and hearing questions being asked like, “can I use the track when students aren’t using it,” Logan said. “I think that is a signal for us that we need to make it clear to people that this would be their facility as well and it would be open for community use.”
“We are now in a situation where we have a project, a viable project, to put in a good viable facility that not only would serve the people of the town of Brunswick, but our athletes at the high school level and when they go into the collegiate level,” said Councilor David Watson, sponsor of the funding ordinance and a retired high school track and field coach.
Logan said the goal is to raise enough funds to have the track reconstruction completed by this summer.
“There may be some modest interruptions to the tail end of the academic year and the use of those facilities,” he said, “but otherwise it should be done in the summer and ready to go in the fall.”
Weeds grow between cracks on the aging track at Brunswick High School. The Town Council will hold a public hearing Feb. 19 on a proposal to spend up to $1 million to reconstruct the track.
RunBrunswick cofounder Barry Logan addresses councilors Feb. 4.