Councilor: 120 Navy families coming to Brunswick

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BRUNSWICK — About 120 U.S. Navy families will be coming to the community as part of a precommissioning crew at Bath Iron Works, Town Councilor David Watson announced Monday.

“Starting this time next year, there’ll be something in the area of a seven-year program (during) which BIW will be constructing new ships, new destroyers,” Watson said.

He said he and Town Manager Gary Brown attended a meeting with a “precom” unit of the Navy.

“A precom unit is a precommissioning unit for the vessels,” Councilor Gerald Favreau said. “They’re a nucleus crew that undergoes training, and they stay with the ship and go with the ship when it departs.”

“I believe that there’s going to be five ships that are going to be built,” said Watson. “Five will be probably with the Zumwalt class of destroyers.”

Zumwalt class destroyers combine cutting-edge technology with a low-to-the-ocean body design that is reminiscent of an old iron-clad warship. Each ship comes with a price tag of $3.8 billion, according to information in the Navy’s budget.

BIW began construction on a Zumwalt destroyer on April 4.

Jim DeMartini, communications manager for BIW, said Watson is referring to the three Zumwalts that are currently under construction, and two Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers that were contracted in November 2011 and February 2012.

Watson said that the precom unit and BIW are cooperating with the town.

“They also supplied us with information that our community, Brunswick, could help them with needs to meet their requirements as far as Navy personnel and their families,” he said.

While Brunswick is suffering economically from the loss of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, the introduction of a new population of Navy families would bring its own complications.

Watson cited a figure of 120 families, but DeMartini said that he couldn’t confirm those numbers.

“The crew can be here for a lengthy period of time,” DeMartini said. “They used to be housed on the Navy base, but with the closure of that base, the Navy has to figure out where to house them.”

Watson said that there will be both positive and negative impacts on the community.

“This could be looked at positively and there’s also the negative aspect of it,” he said. “We’re somewhat crowded in our schools, but that also means that there will be federal funding coming to our schools for those children.”

Watson said that the town should support the Navy’s efforts in the community.

“Hopefully this will be a good relationship between the town of Brunswick and precom ships and the United States Navy,” he said.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or matthh@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hh_matt.

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