Brunswick Town Hall costs exceed budget

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BRUNSWICK — Unexpected costs emerged for the new Town Hall at the Town Council’s meeting Monday night, where councilors also tweaked the downtown planning process in a divided vote.

The council also approved additional funding to study the potential for an outdoor public pool at Brunswick Landing.

The council meeting was once again held at Curtis Memorial Library’s Morrell Meeting Room, after renovations on the Council Chambers at the new Town Hall at 85 Union St. were extended for two weeks, according to Councilor David Watson, who serves on the Town Hall renovation committee.

“We were hoping to have this meeting in the new Council Chambers,” Watson said, “but we wanted it done and done correctly, and not rushed.” 

Town Manager Gary Brown revealed that the nearly $1 million project is now about $23,000 over budget. The additional expense is a result of construction change orders for new chairs in the Council Chambers, shelving for the town clerk’s vault, and the installation of a security system, which previously weren’t included in the budget.

The cost will be absorbed in other budget accounts that show balances, Brown said.

In addition, he said most of a $91,000 price tag for a backup generator for the building, which was also not included in the original budget, will be covered by Bowdoin College as part of its annual “unconditional gift” to the town.

When asked by council Chairman Benet Pols about how the town will fill the new revenue gap created by diverting Bowdoin’s annual gift to generator costs, Brown said it will be covered by an unexpected $60,000 reimbursement from the city of Bath for hiring two of its police officers.

Brown said the remaining $10,000 balance for the generator will be covered by the project’s contingency fund.

Councilor Jane Millett said she was surprised some of these additional items were not budgeted and expressed concerns about rotting and bare wood on the exterior of the new Town Hall, which have been documented by local blogger Pem Schaeffer.

Brown said the replacement of trim and painting on the building’s exterior will be part of the building maintenance budget in the coming years. He added that a proposal for addressing the problem will be presented during the council’s upcoming municipal budget deliberations.

But that didn’t seem to satisfy Millett. 

“My concern is that it’s going to get much worse,” she said. “There are some spots that are quite deteriorated.” 

The town is expected to move into the new Town Hall by April, when the town is also expected to transfer the old Town Hall and former Recreation Center properties at 28 and 30 Federal St. to Brunswick Development Corp. under separate agreements.

The town will receive $225,000 for the Recreation Center property. It has already received the land of the new Police Station on Stanwood and Pleasant streets in exchange for the Town Hall property.

BDC is expected to sell both properties to Wiscasset-based Coastal Enterprises for its new downtown headquarters.

The town received the new Town Hall property, formerly known as the McLellan Building, from Bowdoin College in exchange for the former Longfellow Elementary School, which was reopened last year as the college’s Edwards Center for Arts and Dance.

As part of the agreement signed in 2011, Bowdoin will continue to occupy the third floor of the new Town Hall rent-free for 10 years.

In other business, the council:

• Voted 6-3 to allow the Planning Board to act in the Village Review Board’s place if the VRB fails to have a quorum.

Councilors  Steve Walker, John Perreault and Millett opposed the change because two new members were appointed to the Village Review Board since the problem emerged, bringing the board one member above the required four members needed for a quorum.

The dissenting councilors also said they were concerned the ordinance change would diminish the urgency and importance of maintaining a quorum for the Village Review Board, since the Planning Board can always act in its place.

Village Review Board Chairwoman Emily Swan advocated for the change as an emergency measure. She said she doesn’t anticipate the town will ever need to resort to using the measure, but said it’s good to have just in case.

• Agreed to allocate $3,700 to complete a feasibility study for an outdoor pool at Brunswick Landing.

The vote came after results of a recent 300-person survey found that respondents are “very supportive of locating a pool adjacent to the new Recreation Center on the former naval air station,” now known as Brunswick Landing, according to a memo from the Recreation Commission.

The survey, which was conducted by Kansas-based market research firm Leisure Vision as part of the feasibility study, also found that use of of an outdoor pool “would be dramatically higher” than the current use of Coffin Pond.

Two-thirds of survey respondents said they would support some level of property tax increase to support the project, although there was disagreement about what level of tax increase is acceptable.

Although councilors unanimously supported further funding of the outdoor pool feasibility study, Millett expressed doubt about the proposal and said it belonged in the “category of wants, not needs.”

The study was originally funded by the Town Council in December 2012 when it authorized the use of a special revenue fund not to exceed $25,000.

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