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Brunswick seeks bids to demolish old newspaper building

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Brunswick seeks bids to demolish old newspaper building

BRUNSWICK — The Town Council is still hoping to find a buyer for the old Times Record building on Industry Road, even as it moves forward with a plan to demolish the structure.

The building has been on the market for the past two years. Town Manager Gary Brown said during a council meeting on Monday that the offers have been few and inadequate.

"I wouldn't call it a bona fide offer, but we received a couple of offers last week, I think when it became apparent that this item was going to be on the agenda this evening," Brown said. "One of them was as ridiculous as dollar-a-year rent payments for the property."

Without prior notice, the council went into an executive session to discuss a new offer related to the building. The identity of the potential buyer was not disclosed, and the council took no action after the private meeting.

Anne Dodd of Windemere Road criticized the council's decision to acquire the building in the first place, calling it a "fiasco."

 "The Town Council made a huge mistake in getting that building so long ago, and spending all that money," she said. "... I have sold properties at very low figures just to get rid of them. And I know that somebody would pay $200,000 ... to buy it and put it back on the tax rolls."

While she didn't defend the decision to acquire the building, Councilor Suzan Wilson said it is time for critics of the decision to think about solutions, rather than blame. She asked for "a little bit of forbearance and charity" from the public.

"Hardly anyone who's sitting on the council today was here when that decision was made," Wilson said. "To me, there has to be some end of time when you punish successive versions of the Town Council for a decision that you do not agree with ... . Those sitting here today are trying our best to make some disposition of this issue. ... The endless punishment and barrage of punishment on people who were not part of the decision does seem to be counterproductive and makes people defensive about even trying to make a decision."

Brown said he would prefer to sell the property, but with $50,000 a year in maintenance costs, it is time to consider demolition. The building has been listed for sale since the fall of 2010.

Brown noted that discussions with Southern Maine Community College, and with an individual associated with SMCC, failed to produce a sale. Talks with other interested parties, including the School Department, also stalled after they began just over a year ago.

The council voted 8-1 to approve the solicitation of bids to demolish the building. Councilor John Perrault cast the opposing vote.

Chairwoman Joanne King said the vote does not necessarily mean the building will be torn down.

"We can entertain quotes and decide not to tear the building down," King said .

A combination of council appropriations and rent payments from former building tenants have resulted in a fund of $490,000, which can be drawn upon for demolition, Brown said. That fund has also been used to pay for the heating and maintenance of the building.

"At some point we're going to run out of Times Record fund money and start having to put additional tax money into the care and  feeding of the Times Record building," Councilor Benet Pols said.

If the council acts now to demolish the building, Brown said, there will be leftover cash in the fund.

"At that time, there will be a recommendation to the council to close the account out, and what to do with the excess funds," he said.

Councilor Ben Tucker asked whether Brunswick Publishing, owner of the Times Record, has paid its overdue taxes, which totaled more than $250,000 in March.

"June 1 was the date I heard (there would be a resolution)," Tucker said.

"I've had recent communication with the publisher," Brown responded. "I'm expecting that that will come to conclusion within the next several days."

Councilor Sarah Brayman asked whether local companies would have a chance to bid on the demolition.

"There are capable demolition companies, construction companies in the Brunswick area. I would expect that we would look to get proposals  from them," Brown replied.

He said he expected a combination of advertising and direct solicitation to generate between six and 10 proposals.

The building is being used to store the town's archived files, Recreation Department equipment, and Police Department evidence. Brown said that the materials could be transferred to the field house at Brunswick Landing.

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