BRUNSWICK — Incumbent Town Councilor Gerald Favreau is facing an election challenge for the first time in six years in District 5.
Dan Harris, a newcomer to Brunswick, is challenging the three-term councilor for his seat, which represents neighborhoods in east Brunswick and includes Cook’s Corner and Brunswick Landing.
While the two candidates agree on the need for efficient spending and economic development, they differ on strategies to effect growth at Cook’s Corner, particularly a proposal to build a town-financed road to facilitate private development in the area.
A former corporate attorney with a background in municipal government in Maine and Connecticut, Harris said he respects Favreau’s long service, but thinks he could do a better job.
“I think Gerry has a tendency to go along,” Harris said.
Harris, 76, is a retired vice president and general counsel for ABB Combustion Engineering Services, an international firm specializing in energy production.
He and his wife moved in the late 1990s to Boothbay, where he served six years on the Board of Selectmen. Prior to moving to Maine, he served as deputy mayor in Bloomfield, Connecticut.
Harris got involved in Brunswick affairs after moving to his home on Mountain Ash Avenue in 2012. He sits on the boards of the Brunswick Downtown Association and Brunswick Development Corp.
As a councilor, he said he would be sure to closely analyze conclusions made by staff or recommendations from consultants, and make sure to hold people responsible.
“It’s not adversarial,” he said. “It’s just doing your job.”
He said he would like to reduce town spending, starting with how much it pays Cumberland County, which was more than $1 million last year.
“We don’t get anything from the county,” Harris said, adding that the council should demand the county explain its spending and how Brunswick benefits from its annual payment.
The council should also be focusing on how to maintain and repair the buildings it has, instead of looking for ways to pay for new ones, Harris said.
If it does pursue new facilities, the town should value function over style, particularly with schools, he added.
“We do not need our schools to be monuments to architecture,” Harris said.
He said he would consider creation of a facilities manager position in the town and supports fully funding reserve accounts to pay for routine replacement and repairs.
“To do it right may cost money the first time, but in the long run it will save the town,” Harris said.
He agreed that the town needs to encourage business development to expand the tax base, but opposes a proposal to pay for a connector road between between Gurnet and Thomas Point roads at Cook’s Corner to open private land for development.
Favreau has supported the project, but Harris said he is against using town money to subsidize a private development.
“If the owners of that land want to develop it, let them build a their own road,” he said. “I don’t want to enhance private property with public money.”
In contrast to Harris, Favreau said he fully supports constructing a town-funded road, arguing that it is “the key” to spurring development and growing jobs at Cook’s Corner.
The professional office buildings envisioned for the area will help bring in new customers and hopefully revive struggling retailers in the area, he argued.
“If you get people down there working, they’ll start spending money there,” Favreau said.
Private developers have already proposed building a road from Thompson Point Road to the Wal-Mart plaza on Tibbetts Drive, so the town only needs to finance the first section between Gurnet and Thomas Point, Favreau said.
The town will be able to pay for the project with funds from a new tax increment financing district, without passing the cost to taxpayers, he said, noting his belief that TIFs are a good tool to attract businesses.
“As long as it doesn’t impact the taxpayer, it’s justified,” Favreau said.
Favreau, a warship designer at Bath Iron Works, has lived in Brunswick for most of his 69 years, and lives on Riverview Drive with his wife Sandra.
He was first elected to the council for a two-year term in 2006, then won re-election in unopposed races for three-year terms in 2008 and 2011.
In his long tenure as councilor, Favreau has held positions on the appointments and elementary school building committees, and now sits on the facilities committee.
He defended the council’s decision to move town offices to the McClellan Building on Union Street, which eventually cost more than $1 million to renovate – more than 10 times the original estimate.
The town was able to pay for most of the transition with money from a TIF account and excise tax from a jet airplane, Favreau said, leaving the town with an excellent facility for the future and no additional debt.
“We don’t owe any money on that building,” he said.
Like Harris, Favreau agrees that the town needs to fund its capital reserve accounts and said he would consider a facilities manager the town could share with the School Department.
After a rocky period between the town and Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, Favreau said the relationship now is much-improved and should continue that way, as long as there are open lines of communication.
Favreau said he has enjoyed going door-to-door and reconnecting with the people in his district. He said he hopes his record on the council will encourage voters to come out for him again.
“I love Brunswick,” Favreau said. “I’m all for Brunswick.”