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Brunswick base land for police station isn't free, after all

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Brunswick base land for police station isn't free, after all

BRUNSWICK — A proposal to build a police station at Brunswick Naval Air Station lost some of its appeal Tuesday.

Many Police Station Subcommittee members had been under the impression that the town could acquire the Bath Road property for free. The general impression had been that the town could swap the former U.S. Navy shooting range, which Brunswick is set to acquire for free through a public conveyance, for five acres elsewhere on the base at no extra cost.

Councilor John Perreault said in an interview that he had heard indirectly from the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority and others that "we could possibly get land on the base with road access through a swap for the shooting range."

He said he was disappointed to learn that is not the case.

The realization occurred when Town Manager Gary Brown shared a chain of e-mails between him and MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque, in which Levesque said the town would have to purchase land for the police station at fair market value.

"We previously discussed either the town paying fair market value for the land or constructing the entrance in lieu," Levesque wrote.

He explained in an interview Wednesday that the town would have to pay for any land it hopes to use for a police station.

"Our policy towards MRRA is we cannot just give land away," Levesque said.

When asked how committee members got the impression the land would be free, he said "I don't know, I never said that."

Levesque said he sent an e-mail to Brown in mid-December to correct the town manager after he read a newspaper report that said Brown expected "the land would be offered to the town at no cost, but that, in exchange, MRRA would seek a shooting range currently slated to be conveyed to the town."

"I never committed to exchanging the shooting range property for 'free' land on bath road (sic)," Levesque's message said.

But Levesque added that there could be ways to pay less if the town constructed a new entrance to the base across from Merrymeeting Plaza, or if the town returned the shooting range to MRRA.

If the town decides to do this, he said, the cost of constructing a new entrance and/or the value of the shooting range land would would be deducted from the price of the police station property.

When Brown explained these options to the members of the subcommittee on Tuesday, some members questioned how much it would cost to build an entrance to the future Brunswick Landing.

Brown said Levesque wasn't able to give him "even a ball-park" estimate of that cost, or what the fair market value is of the land the town would be interested in buying.

Levesque was also unable to provide that information on Wednesday. He said he has "no idea" how much it would cost the town to build an entrance to Brunswick Landing because MRRA hasn't gotten to that stage of the development process yet.

He also said he didn't know what the land along Bath Road is worth because the Navy is still doing an appraisal of all the base property. He said the appraisal might not be done for another month.

After realizing the former Navy land would not be free, subcommittee member Sarah Brayman said she wants to reconsider the panel's decision to eliminate the McLellan building as a possible police station site.

Other committee members were not excited about reconsidering McLellan.

"We started to pare down our choices and now all of a sudden ... you want to bring back things we decided didn't work?" asked subcommittee member Bernie Breitbart.

Subcommittee co-Chairwoman and at-large Town Councilor Joanne King reminded the committee that the Police Department was not impressed with the McLellan building, and after discussing the site again the committee upheld the decision not to consider McLellan as police station any longer.

The two proposed sites on the former Navy base – on Bath Road across from Merrymeeting Plaza and across from Fat Boy's – remain on the table, as does the property at the corner of Stanwood and Pleasant Streets.

The subcommittee meets again on Feb. 22.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 718-3661 ext. 123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net