Coastal Enterprises eyes Brunswick town properties for headquarters
BRUNSWICK — Coastal Enterprises Inc. has expressed interest in acquiring the Municipal Building, police station and town recreation center on Federal Street.
The Wiscasset-based nonprofit business development agency would use the properties for its new headquarters.
Town Manager Gary Brown on Tuesday said if an agreement is reached on what he described as a "purchase offer," CEI would build a new building on the Federal Street lots, bring about 50 new jobs to the downtown area, and create new tax revenue for the town.
But not everyone is welcoming the news.
Members of the NorthWest Brunswick Neighborhood Association, which is based around the Maine Street area, said they oppose abandoning the recreation building because of its close proximity to people who don't have transportation.
"The group's position is that this is a big step in removing a main ingredient of importance to the neighborhood," said former Town Councilor Marybeth Burbank, president of the association.
Burbank said the town hasn't been transparent enough in its plans to eventually abandon the recreation center at 30 Federal St., and move the facilities to a former U.S. Navy recreation building at Brunswick Landing.
"It's a vital piece of this in-town residential community," Burbank said, "and it does seem to us that it does take a lot of integrated discussion before you even think of closing it."
Burbank's group isn't alone in desiring more transparency from the town.
Councilor Sarah Brayman and Jeff Ward, chairman of the Recreation Commission, both said they're concerned about the town's process.
"I think this is a major decision, and I would prefer that we have a conversation about it," Brayman said.
"There needs to be a big public conversation about the asset," Ward said. "We need to have all the information in a way that the public has an ability to discuss it so the council can make an informed decision. ... Whatever decision is made, people aren't going to be happy, but I do believe there needs to be a conversation. The building has been an important asset in town for a very long time."
Brown said he's at a loss to explain the claims about a lack of transparency on the town's part.
"I'm not sure they can say that there hasn't been transparency," Brown said. "The council in open session in 2007 voted to request the (Navy recreation building on) the base."
He said there was also a staff recommendation in April 2011 to phase out use of the Federal Street recreation center and begin using the Navy building, which is expected to be conveyed to the town by August. The council never voted to move forward with the recommendation.
Ron Phillips, CEI's chief executive officer, said in a statement Wednesday that CEI will be working on a feasibility study over the next several months to assess the viability of a move to Brunswick.
"There are many considerations to take into account as we move forward with our decision-making process," Phillips said. "The Town of Brunswick and the (Brunswick Development Corp.) have been very welcoming to the possibility of our relocation, creating what we are referring to as 'CEI Central' in a town that is closer to financial activity, yet still allows us to retain our rural character."
Details of CEI's proposal could not be disclosed, Brown said, because the Town Council was expected to make a counter-proposal in an executive session on Thursday.
In the meantime, the town is planning to move various offices and services to new locations over the next year and a half.
The new police station is expected to open on Pleasant and Stanwood streets this October. The McLellan Building on Union Street is expected to become the home of the town's municipal offices sometime after May 2014, and the town's council chambers by September 2014.
The McLellan Building was acquired through a land swap with Bowdoin College in 2011 for the former Longfellow School building; $750,000 has been budgeted for renovations to the McLellan Building.
Brown said if the CEI deal moves forward, the town could move into the McLellan Buidling sooner.