Sunday, August 25, 2013

OK, LT. Dover; time to come back from your summer vacation.

As you probably noticed, when your correspondent takes a sabbatical, we also give a break to our trusty staff.  They appreciate the time off as much as we do, and they’re glad to get away from us and our incorrigible ways for the duration.  They may ‘respect’ Side, but they aren’t particularly fond of us.  Why does that always seem to be the case with those we know?

The riff that we’re on at the moment seems to be particularly well matched to LT Ben Dover’s attributes.  And even more, there’s a news item out this week that dovetails very nicely with his image.

You’ll find it here in the Forecaster.  The story is a lovely mélange of Brunswick Municipal Government; the Brunswick Development Corporation, which we are currently exploring; Coastal Enterprises Inc (CEI); and town facilities.

                

Before we pass along our observations, we’ll tell you that Ben, given his sense of military discipline, kept up his PT regime during the summer break, and is as fit as the photo above shows.  We suspect that the rest of you, and Side as well, slacked off a bit.  All we can say, boys and girls, is that what follows will have you repeatedly and fervently grabbing for your toes to resume your workout.

Based on what we’ve written in the last few days, you should have a pretty good idea of what Brunswick Development Corporation (BDC) is about, even if you and Dale King don’t see eye to eye on that.  If you want to find out about CEI, look here.

We remind you that we are a small town engineer, not a lawyer.  Still, as we see it, CEI is another one of those shadowy, quasi-governmental entities.  As we understand it, they were created through federal legislation, and today, they dispense federally allocated tax credits to those they choose, so they exercise some form of control over federal largesse.  If we recall correctly, they also deal in CDBGs, or Community Development Block Grants, which are federal dollars.  A few moments spent on their web site will convince you they have a barely hidden socio-political agenda.  We invite those who find these characterizations in error to submit comments and corrections to us, in which case we will correct the record.

You’ll also notice that CEI identifies themselves as a ‘private, non-profit community development corporation.’  How many evil corporations do we have to deal with around here, anyway?  It’s like they’re everywhere!

We believe that CEI was central to the vaunted Kestrel Aviation picking up their bat, ball, and glove and taking the majority of their operation to a Midwestern state that had better goodies to offer.  Seems they were disappointed when CEI didn’t come through with the tax credits they thought they had been promised.

So while CEI trumps BDC all to heck in scale and volume, they both basically deal in the same general offerings.  Among which are ‘corporate welfare and tax breaks,’ or if you prefer, ‘tax loopholes.’  You know how it goes; we hear over and over from local elites, semi-elites, and assorted moon-bats that such things are anathema to social and economic justice. 

And that those who engage in such practices are sons-o-bitches.  But once again we see that what they really mean is that it’s OK when it’s OUR sons-o-bitches.  It’s those other sons-a-bitches over there behind that tree or over that fence that are the real SOBs.

So it’s kinda fun to see BDC and CEI working together in the deal whereby the town offloads the old Rec Center and Municipal Building on Federal Street.  And both of them making some shekels on the deal for use in future cherry picking.

We’ve got a golf-tournament to watch this afternoon and other things on our agenda.  And the golf tourney looks to be heading for a pretty exciting finish.  Even more, the course was built on a former dump (landfill to elites and semi-elites) not more than 10 miles from where we were born and spent our formative years.  So we’re gonna try to cut to the chase pretty quick here.

CEI is getting one hell of a deal on the Rec Center and Town Hall as we see it, but some have argued there was no other reasonable option.  And it allows CEI and BDC to take credit for various things, like making the move of Town Offices to the McClellan building possible, making the new Police HQ cost less, and taking some white elephants off our hands.  At the same time, they help Cape Brunswick, the richest little town in America, continue to build its reputation as the demolition capital of Maine.  Even when it comes to demolishing taxpayer money, like we did with the TR building.

What really gets our hanky all balled up here are the statements regarding CEI in the subject article.  BDC President Larissa Darcy had these comments:

the move would also improve the town's reputation as a business-friendly community.

"In having a company of this size, like CEI, choose downtown Brunswick, it shows others that Brunswick is a good place for business," she said.

We take exception to the implication that CEI is a ‘business’ as normally conceived.  For the reasons we explained earlier; until someone convinces us otherwise, we will continue to think of them as a quasi-governmental/politically driven enterprise, replacing government occupied buildings.  And keep in mind that when they bring their existing jobs here, they’re taking them from other nearby communities.  Until proven otherwise, this is a zero-sum exercise, except for the demolition guys and the builders.

Darcy added:

CEI would also be paying taxes on properties that were previously nontaxable because of their municipal status, Darcy said.

As we told you, it says right on the CEI web page that they are a non-profit operation, which means they qualify for exemption from property taxes, just like local churches, Bowdoin College, and others.  So we’ll wait to see if they actually pay property taxes, and if they do, perhaps they can convince the Ivory Tower to ignore their exemption and pay their fair share as well.  When that happens, those monkeys we’ve been training should be ready to fly out of our….oh, forget it.

Toe touch, toe touch, one-two, one-two.

Moving on to the McClellan Building subject, we read these words attributed to our Town Manager:

The town will move its Town Hall and Council Chambers into the McLellan Building on Union Street by April - when BDC is expecting to close on the sale - pending renovation work, Brown said.

The town manager said more information about the scope and costs of renovation work on the McLellan Building is expected to emerge sometime in September.

We talked about this earlier in the year, including this post.  In that item, we said:

Last we can recall, the town was planning on spending around $800,000 or so, up from early projections of $300,000, to ‘adapt’ the building for town use.  We don’t think any of that sum was characterized as remediating ‘deferred maintenance issues.’

We happened to be discussing the subject earlier this week with an in-town acquaintance, and mentioned the $800,000 figure.  He laughed and suggested we think more in the range of $5 million.  We have no idea whether he had any real basis for this comment, but an architect has been hired, and you know what happens when we do that.  Before you catch your breath, demolition and rebuild comes into the picture as ‘cheaper in the long run.’  Just look at the school department.

We’re not suggesting that the McClellan building is ready for the wrecking ball, but we do see some similarity in the way Bowdoin maintained the building and the way the Brunswick School Department maintains their physical plants.  And here we thought Bowdoin had ‘pride of ownership;’ they clearly didn’t in this case.

Witness these recent photos taken around the McClellan Building by a reader of ours who has solid experience in exterior building care and repair.  And note as well that in acquiring the McClellan, we will be picking up a wood exterior building to replace one with a brick exterior, meaning regular cycles of exterior repair and painting.  Oh, well, we are Cape Brunswick, and we want to save taxpayer money.  We’ll spend whatever it takes to do so.

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That should be enough to make the point.  If this is the obvious and visible deferred maintenance, one can only imagine what the architects will find or not find as they look elsewhere.  One can’t help but remember how shortly after we bought the TR building for $1.5 million, we ‘discovered’ that it needed $5 million in work to be fit for use.

We don’t know if $5 million will be the final number, but we’d bet you a dozen of Frosty’s finest that it won’t be $800,000 thousand.

We’re not sure exactly, but we figure the McClellan building should be in the range of 10 years old or so.  And that Bowdoin College should be ashamed of itself for letting the building get into this condition.  But who knows; maybe they had an inkling long ago that they would not be the owners for very long.  And that ‘someone else’ would have to worry about the deferred maintenance before long.  Someone who can find the money they need very easily.

Maybe Bowdoin should offer up a calisthenics leader for us.  We think we’re going to see a lot  more toe touching required around here in the next several years.

                   

Everywhere we look…ducks, ducks, and more ducks.  Ducking for cover would seem to make sense at the moment.  It could be raining duck poop for a long, long time.

1 comment:

  1. Ya know, it might be a GREAT idea, and more appropriate use of "their" money, for the BDC to step up and cover ALL the costs of any exterior repair and repainting of the McClellan Building. It is, after all, the NEW face of the Town of Brunswick....

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