BRUNSWICK — The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved its five-year Capital Improvement Program, but not before learning that $50,000 could be added to the cost of renovating a building at 35 Union St.
The building is the new home for People Plus, a retirement services provider displaced by the Maine Street Station project. The town, a development partner in Maine Street Station, agreed to relocated People Plus to 35 Union Street, the former headquarters for the Brunswick School Department.
The town has spent about $830,000 renovating the building over the last several months.
Recently, however, town officials learned that the People Plus price tag could jump another $50,000 due to an incorrect estimate to repair the roof at 35 Union St.
According to Finance Director John Eldridge, the town received two incorrect estimates from G & E Roofing Co. Inc. The original estimates were pegged at about $5,000 to re-coat the roof, a temporary fix. But new estimates are triple that, prompting the town to consider replacing the roof, a cost that could reach $50,000.
That figure is an estimate, but one that’s included in the town’s newly-adopted CIP, a five-year plan for capital improvement projects for new and renovated facilities and road improvement.
Eldridge notified the council of the roof situation on Monday. Few councilors commented on the news, but the non-verbal reaction indicated several were displeased.
The council has taken some heat for the People Plus renovation, which is linked to the estimated $5 million the town has invested in Maine Street Station, a project some residents have criticized for relying too heavily on public funding.
The additional outlay for People Plus followed a discussion of the new CIP, which includes several big-ticket items over the next several years. Several of the projects could have a significant impact on the property tax rate and the town’s debt level.
A new police station is scheduled for fiscal 2012, a project tabbed at $6.6 million and one that could increase the property tax rate by 2.3 percent that same year.
Overall, fiscal 2012 appears to be the most costly for taxpayers, with capital projects expected to increase the tax rate to 5.4 percent.
While a new police station would account for about 43 percent of that increase, the majority comes from debt already authorized for other projects.
Additionally, the police station project isn’t a done deal, nor has the expenditure been authorized by the Town Council. If it moves forward, the price could be lower.
Also, Eldridge said Wednesday that he’d considering pushing the project’s debt service to fiscal 2013 so that the scheduled increases in the tax rate are spread more evenly for the next five years.
Several school projects also dominate expenditures on the CIP over the next several years, including $4.9 million for elementary school renovations in fiscal 2014 and $2.6 million for an addition at Brunswick Junior High School in 2015.
Combined, the projects represent a 2.6 percent increase in the tax rate for their first year of debt service.
It’s unclear if those projects will move forward as scheduled.
The elementary school renovations are linked to the School Department’s attempt to reconfigure grades at the elementary school level, a project that stalled this year. Additionally, the district has anticipated sharp cutbacks in state education aid and a continued budget crunch.
The uncertainty of the school projects frustrated some councilors.
Councilor Suzan Wilson said the school department’s proposal “didn’t seem transparent.”
“I don’t feel comfortable approving anything from the school,” said Wilson, adding that she wanted to see more information.
Initially, Councilor Joanne King agreed, adding that the “ambiguity of the school projects is disconcerting.”
Eventually, however, King and Wilson supported the CIP after Eldridge pointed out that the costs and timing of the school projects were no less solidified than the police station.
The newly adopted CIP can be viewed at brunswickme.org.
Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org