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Deal near for sale of Brunswick municipal buildings

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Deal near for sale of Brunswick municipal buildings

BRUNSWICK — Preliminary agreements have been reached to sell the Recreation Center and Town Hall to Wiscasset-based developer Coastal Enterprises Inc.

The town will transfer the properties to the nonprofit Brunswick Development Corp., which will sell the buildings to CEI for $300,000, according to a draft agreement provided Monday by BDC President Larissa Darcy.

Darcy said a final sale price and other details are still being negotiated. She said she expects BDC and CEI to reach an agreement shortly, with an estimated closing date of April 1, 2014.

Officials at CEI have said they will move their headquarters and about 60 employees to downtown Brunswick, bringing the developer closer to many of its Mid-Coast clients.

"We are very, very excited about CEI coming to Brunswick," Darcy said on Wednesday. "I can't speak for CEI, but we believe this is their first choice and we believe this is going to come together."

CEI's move to town would also create a new source of property tax revenue, since the two municipal buildings are tax-exempt.

But before the sale can be completed, the town must separately agree to sell the Recreation Center to BDC for $200,000.

Town Manager Gary Brown on Monday said he expects to sign the agreement by the end of the week, after the town's attorney makes a few technical changes.

Darcy said the Recreation Center sale price is not final and could change.

According to both agreements, closing of the two deals is expected simultaneously by April 1, 2014, or 30 days after the town vacates the two Federal Street properties, with an outside closing date of May 31.

The town properties would then immediately transfer from the town to BDC, and then from BDC to CEI.

Brown was authorized by the Town Council in May to sell the Recreation Center to BDC for no less than $200,000.

The proceeds of the sale will be used to offset the fiscal year 2014 school budget.

Darcy sent the separate agreements to the town and CEI last week, after BDC's directors authorized her to do so, Brown said.

Darcy, also the regional vice president of The Bank of Maine, has been the chief negotiator for the two agreements.

BDC's board includes Brown, Darcy, Finance Director John Eldridge, Councilor John Richardson, Council Chairwoman Suzan Wilson, William Morrell and Joanne Favreau.

According to Brown, the 30 Federal St. property will not be transferred to BDC until the town has moved its Parks and Recreation Department to Building 211 at Brunswick Landing, a former U.S. Navy field house that was conveyed to the town on July 19.

The move is expected to happen sometime in September, Brown said.

The town previously reached an agreement in May 2011 to transfer the Town Hall property at 28 Federal St. to BDC in exchange for the future Police Department property.

The development corporation purchased the new police station land at Stanwood and Pleasant streets for more than $952,000 on the town's behalf to mitigate the transaction's impact on taxpayers.

The Police Department, which is in the basement of Town Hall, is expected to move to the new building by October.

Brown said the town plans to move its Town Hall and Town Council Chambers into the McLellan Building on Union Street around April 1, 2014, but the move is contingent on how long renovation work will take.

The plan is based on a previous agreement between the town and Bowdoin College to swap Longfellow School in exchange for the McLellan Building.

The college is expected to vacate the McLellan Building's first two floors by January 2014. It will continue to use the third floor rent-free for the next 10 years.

The Town Council is expected to approve an architect and construction manager for planning and renovation of the McLellan Building by next week, Brown said. It has appropriated $50,000 for the design and planning phase.

The town manager said an early estimate by construction managers in 2011 put renovation costs at around $750,000. He said renovation will be paid by a bond that will have to be approved by the Town Council.

When CEI first announced its intentions in early May to consider moving to Brunswick, officials said they would be conducting a feasibility study in the next several months "to assess the viability of the location for a move of its corporate headquarters."

John Egan, CEI's director of housing and the chief negotiator for the proposed purchase of the two buildings, later clarified that Brunswick has become CEI's top choice for its new headquarters.

"Other options are falling off rampantly," he said.

Egan was not available by Wednesday morning to discuss current negotiations.

When the town announced the possible sale of the Recreation Center in early May, the plan was protested by some residents who said they valued the building's accessible downtown location.

Some of them have said the Recreation Department's future location at Brunswick Landing is too far away.

"My biggest concern about the move is the distance from town and how kids will get out there," Vladimir Douhovnikoff, of Longfellow Road, said at a packed public hearing in May, where many dissenting voices were heard.

Residents opposed to the Recreation Center's sale also questioned the town's process in deciding to close 30 Federal St.

"It's a vital piece of this in-town residential community," said former Town Councilor Marybeth Burbank, who is also president of the NorthWest Brunswick Neighborhood Association, "and it does seem to us that it does take a lot of integrated discussion before you even think of closing it."

Brown has previously defended the town's process, saying it began in 2007 when the Town Council made a public conveyance request for the former field house.

Town staff then made a recommendation in 2011 to phase out use of the Recreation Center, but the council did not act on the proposal.

However, the Town Council began appropriating money for utility costs at the field house in the fiscal 2012 municipal budget, which Brown said was a sign that the council was preparing to use the facility for the Recreation Department. 

The Town Council also approved changes in September 2012 to the zone containing the Town Hall and Recreation Center, to allow BDC to use the Federal Street properties for light commercial office use.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.