Legislative panel endorses base redevelopment bill, Brunswick campus for SMCC

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BRUNSWICK — A bill to assist in the redevelopment of Brunswick Naval Air Station received unanimous approval from the Legislature’s Business Research Economic Development committee on Tuesday.

If ratified, LD 1664 will allow the agency overseeing the base’s civilian transition to establish an airport authority and manage operations.

The legislation also creates a funding mechanism to generate an estimated $4 million needed to pay for start-up of the Midcoast Campus of Southern Maine Community College, a collaboration between SMCC and the University of Maine that will allow students earn engineering degrees while receiving training in composites development.

The campus has also been touted as a business-attraction tool because SMCC could tailor its course offerings to meet the needs of companies moving to the base.

The committee’s support of the bill marks a positive turn for the campus, which is seeking funding at a time when state allocations in education are experiencing curtailments and reduced subsidies. 

“It’s the toughest piece of legislation I’ve ever worked on because there is no money up here,” sponsor Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, said.

SMCC’s campus funding would not tap the state’s existing education subsidies. Instead, it would generate start-up funds by allowing funds to be appropriated by the state and other sources, such as grants, gifts and trusts. 

If ratified, the bill would be attached to the statute governing the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the agency overseeing base redevelopment.

The bill also creates goals for the MRRA, the progress of which would be monitored in an annual report to the governor and the Legislature.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week. It will then be sent to the House of Representatives.

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