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Brunswick delays land purchase for police station, seeks to unload Industry Road building

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Brunswick delays land purchase for police station, seeks to unload Industry Road building

BRUNSWICK — The town has decided to postpone potential land acquisition for a new police station until the fall.

Meanwhile, town officials are proposing to renew efforts to sell the old Times Record building on Industry Road, a facility that has been twice considered for new police headquarters.

Both questions came up during budget discussions, amid declining revenue projections and a threat of municipal layoffs.

Since last fall, the town has been reviewing potential sites for a new police station, which would replace the department's cramped subterranean facility on Federal Street. The town's Capital Improvement Program has scheduled $6.65 million for the new station for fiscal year 2011.

The Town Council has met in executive session several times to discuss potential land acquisition for the project. However, after its most recent closed-door meeting, Chairwoman Joanne King announced the town will not move forward until the fall.

King said the council has identified two potential sites, but declined to identify them. She added that the delay is partially due to the budget discussions.

"We're trying to be sensitive to the times we're in," she said. "But we absolutely plan to move forward even if we do so a little more slowly. ... In spite of our hardship, I still hear people saying they want us to build a new police station."

A new facility has been discussed for several years.

In 2004, the town purchased the old Times Record building on Industry Road for $1.3 million with the intent of converting it into a police station. The project was deemed too costly, both in 2004, and last year, when the council's police station search subcommittee gave it a second look.

Since 2004, the town has spent over $1 million renovating the building, including outfitting it last year for temporary meeting space.

The town has also spent about $2.7 million since 2005 maintaining and operating the building.

In 2009, the town used $75,000 from its fund balance to cover operational costs for the building.

The town hoped to offset those expenses in 2007 when it began leasing space to Southern Maine Community College for a composites training school. However, according to Town Manager Gary Brown, SMCC's rent barely covers the town's operating costs.

Given the town's annual losses, Brown told the council Monday that it is time to set a "definitive direction" for the facility, possibly more aggressive attempts to sell it, demolition and redevelopment or public auction.

The issue was made more pressing when SMCC officials told Brown they want to remain tenants until a new campus is built at Brunswick Naval Air Station. However, the college told Brown that it probably couldn't afford to pay rent.

SMCC had originally hoped to purchase the building, but couldn't come up with the funds.

Even if SMCC could pay rent, it would come at a cost to taxpayers. In 2008, after the Town Council voted to sell the building, Finance Director John Eldridge said the SMCC lease costs the town about $17,000 annually.

Although the property has been listed on the town's Web site, King said the council will consider hiring a commercial real estate broker to begin aggressively marketing it.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net