Brunswick council to consider grants for Oxford Aviation, fire station renovations
BRUNSWICK — The Town Council on Monday set public hearings for $1.86 million in bonds for the School Department, but it may soon consider endorsing grant applications for several other projects, including Oxford Aviation's planned expansion to Brunswick Naval Air Station.
The town's involvement in the Oxford plan could come through a Community Development Block Grant that would help the company purchase a $750,000 booth to paint jet airliners. According to Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the CDBG funding could be up to $400,000.
MRRA, which is overseeing the redevelopment of the base, is also assisting Oxford Aviation by helping it apply for a loan worth up to $500,000 through the Maine Rural Redevelopment Association.
The grant-loan combination could be up to $900,000. Levesque said that while most money would be applied to the paint booth, the rest could be used for other capital projects Oxford is planning at the base.
If the council endorses the CDBG application at its next meeting, it will be the town's first involvement with Oxford's planned expansion to Brunswick. The state, in particular the Department of Economic and Community Development, has so far played the leading role in bringing the company to the base.
The town's involvement is also a requirement because only municipalities can apply for CDBG funding.
Last fall, Oxford Aviation announced its intention to become a tenant at the base once the U.S. Navy leaves. The company, which reupholsters and refurbishes aircraft, said expanding to Brunswick will create 200 jobs there and grow an existing workforce in Oxford.
The company previously attempted to expand to Sanford Regional Airport, but financing for that $10 million project fell through last summer. Company officials have assured Brunswick that expansion to BNAS is a better opportunity because runways there will allow the company to work on larger aircraft.
Acting Town Manager Gary Brown said authorization of the CDBG application might be consistent with the Town Council's goals to support redevelopment efforts at the base.
The council may also consider a separate CDBG application that would extend upgraded power capacity to a multi-use development near Durham Road and Route 1. The site was supposed to be the location of a town-financed business park, but the council killed the project.
Bill Moore, who owns the property, said Wednesday that extending power capacity there would accommodate two potential tenants. One of them, Maine Tool & Machine, is currently on Industry Road. The other, which Moore would not identify, could move to the development without upgraded power. Maine Tool & Machine, he said, could not.
Neither Moore nor Brown were sure about the cost of extending power capacity, but Moore said the upgraded lines currently end near the intersection of Durham Road and Route 1.
His project is slated for final Planning Board approval on May 26.
Additionally, the council could soon be asked to apply for a grant that would fund the $6 million needed for renovations to the central fire station. The project has been on the town's Capital Improvement Program for several years, but was pushed back to fiscal year 2012-2013 because of funding concerns and because the town is under pressure to improve its police station.
The police station project is estimated at $6.65 million and is slated for 2010-2011.
According to Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, the opportunity to fund the fire station project is a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Gerzofsky said there was no stimulus funding available for the police station.
Details of the opportunity are sketchy and it's unclear if the grant will require a 20 percent match from the town, like other federal programs. Gerzofsky said the state is still awaiting federal guidelines for the grant.
"Even with a 20 percent match," he said, "that's a lot less than if the town had to pay 100 percent."
On Monday, Councilor Joanne King expressed concerns over the lack of information about the grant, in addition to potentially moving the fire station project ahead of the police station.
Gerzofsky said "the council will have the exact wording before it votes on anything."
"This is to get a placeholder," he added. "That's my domain, not the town's. The town never even knew about the opportunity."
The council also set public hearings on three bond projects for the School Department. One, for $410,000, will go toward the ongoing air quality project at the Brunswick Junior High School. Another, for $450,000, will go toward the department's plan to move its headquarters from Union Street to Hawthorne Elementary School.
Both projects are built into the department's proposed budget for 2009-2010.
King raised some questions about Hawthorne project, which includes money for meeting space. The town had initially eyed Hawthorne to relocate its municipal offices there, and to provide meeting space lost by the demolition of the old high school on McKeen Street. However, the council abandoned the project because it was too costly.
The town is still searching for permanent meeting space. The Town Council currently meets on Industry Road. The council this year entered a lease agreement with Bowdoin College to sublet space within the $23 million Maine Street Station project, a project to which the town has already committed $2 million.