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Players present, but no vote on Oxford Aviation lease by Brunswick base agency

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Players present, but no vote on Oxford Aviation lease by Brunswick base agency

FREEPORT — During an annual meeting marked more by ceremony than business, the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority on Oct. 22 delayed its decision on a lease agreement that could bring Oxford Aviation to Brunswick Naval Air Station.

The agency's anticipated vote was originally scheduled for Thursday. But MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque last week said negotiations with the private firm were still in progress.

Levesque also hinted that MRRA might call a special meeting to address the lease, which has drawn interest following news of the company's recent troubles at its existing locations in Fryeburg and Oxford County, as well as a series of reports scrutinizing its past dealing – notably a failure to meet job creation promises despite significant public investment.

If MRRA calls a special meeting, the state's Freedom of Access Law requires the agency to give public notice 24 hours or more prior to the gathering.

MRRA's next regularly scheduled meeting is Nov. 17.

Oxford's lease agreement was not discussed by MRRA's board of trustees during its business meeting at Freeport's old Town Hall. However, the company's high-profile spokesman, attorney F. Lee Bailey, was present.

Unlike previous MRRA meetings, Bailey did not speak during public comment to promote Oxford Aviation's proposal to bring 200 jobs to the redeveloped base.

Company President Jim Horowitz did not attend the business meeting. However, he was present for a reception and dinner held at the Hilton Garden Inn.

The event, which cost $45 per person, was attended by state and local dignitaries. The dinner was capped by a presentation by Chuck Lawton, chief economist for Planning Decisions Inc. Lawton's discussion centered on the potential to develop renewable energy at BNAS.

Meanwhile, details continue to emerge about Oxford Aviation's failed bid to create a Sanford Jet Division. Despite an investment of more than $1 million by Sanford taxpayers in the failed venture, Sanford officials have declined to speak publicly about the deal.

A Freedom of Access request revealed that Horowitz and Sanford Town Manager Mark Green – a Harpswell native and graduate of Topsham's Mt. Ararat High School – signed documents releasing both parties from their 2007 development agreement. It also contains a non-disparagement clause and specific language prohibiting either side from publicly discussing the deal.

The agreement was signed in May, 10 months after the Sanford deal collapsed, but around the same time Bailey made public Oxford's proposal that MRRA purchase an $800,000 paint booth to accommodate the company's plans to refurbish airliner-sized aircraft at BNAS.

Included in the company's plan is a request for a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant that must be authorized by the Brunswick Town Council. The council has yet to review the authorization, but in May, Town Manager Gary Brown confirmed the request was in the works.

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