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Baldacci signs bill to establish campus at Brunswick Naval Air Station

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Baldacci signs bill to establish campus at Brunswick Naval Air Station

BRUNSWICK — Gov. John Baldacci has signed a law that will help pay the start-up costs for a planned college campus at Brunswick Naval Air Station and grant the base's redevelopment authority the power to create an airport authority.

The law will also help pay for municipal services at the base.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, survived scrutiny from the Legislature's Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, which questioned its funding mechanism and requested assurances from stakeholders – the Maine Community College System, Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority and the University of Maine – that they would not request money from the state's General Fund for at least five years.

The law redirects 50 percent of state income tax revenue from workers hired at the redeveloped base into a so-called job increment financing fund. Collected revenues would be split between the redevelopment authority and the Advanced Technology Campus, a collaboration of Southern Maine Community College and UMaine.

The rest of the income tax revenues will go into the General Fund.

MRRA will use the funding to pay for municipal services at the base – utilities, police and fire protection and facility maintenance.

Projected start-up costs for the Advanced Technology Campus are about $4 million. Another $4.75 million is needed to renovate several buildings. The renovation outlay is included in Baldacci's $150 million bond package, which is on the June 8 ballot.

The fiscal note attached to Gerzofsky's bill acknowledges that the funding mechanism will not be sufficient to support all of the campus start-up costs – presumably because job creation at the redeveloped base will take some time.

The note says the community college system will seek access to alternative funding for the new campus, but that those sources "cannot be determined at this time."

The bill also stands to benefit the base redevelopment authority, which would begin receiving 25 percent of revenues generated by the job fund in fiscal year 2014 to pay for municipal services at the base.

The community college system will receive 100 percent of the job fund revenues for the first two years beginning in fiscal year 2012. After fiscal year 2014, the MRRA and college system will split the fund revenues until 2031, unless 5,000 jobs are created at the base and a legislative review halts the program.

The bill also sets up an airport authority for the MRRA, which hopes to begin airport operations at the base before the U.S. Navy officially departs in May 2011.

The MRRA says the Advanced Technology Campus is vital for luring businesses to the base because the school will adjust its curriculum to meet the needs of companies seeking a trained workforce.

“We’ve made significant progress, and this legislation takes another critical step,” Baldacci said in a press release. “Together, the Maine State Legislature, Maine’s Congressional Delegation, the MRRA , Maine’s Community College and University Systems and many other partners in the public and private sectors have worked with my office and other State agencies to ensure that Brunswick is prepared to grow jobs and new business when the Naval Air Station is closed. This bill enables vital resources to be put to use to redevelop the Mid-Coast economy.”

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