Saturday, April 2, 2011

Making things perfect in the town of Perfect

In keeping with the booming local economy, our increasingly youthful demographics, and the adjustable tax rate protocol under which we subjects live here in Brunswick, town officials have decided to hold a meeting, and a special meeting at that.  They will take up expanding the possibilities for facility expenditures and construction, and apparently, for discarding current facilities that are an embarrassment to those among us with more refined sensibilities. 

We all know that town facilities reflect upon each one of us as individuals, and we must take care to protect our images.  That’s why I never drive by Jordan Acres School, for example.  I simply can’t bare the embarrassment of my association with it.

The possibilities to be discussed are seemingly endless.  Surely we can’t take being second to the hicks across the green bridge when it comes to facility spending for much longer, and we’ve got to show the schoolies they aren’t the only ones who can go off on a construction tear.

The special meeting will be held this Monday the 4th at 6 pm in the temporary meeting facility at Maine Street Station.  You can find the complete details here:

http://www.brunswickme.org/council/agendas/packets/2011Packets/packet040411special.pdf

Apparently, no provision for public comment is being made.  This is a ‘sit down and listen’ meeting for us.

The first agenda item shows the scope of the planning being undertaken:

The Town Council will hear a report on municipal facilities’ needs, and will take any appropriate action (Manager)


 Longfellow School – McLellan building
 Police Station
 Former Times Record building
 Shooting range facility at NASB
 Recreation Field House at NASB
 Recreation Facility on Federal Street
 Central Fire Station
 Public Works Facilities
 Curtis Memorial Library
 Parking Facility

You can read the associated suggested motions in each case by going to the link provided.

For now, a few brief observations seem in order.

  • First, Brunswick’s preferred approach is to discard and do something else.  Think Maine Street Town Hall, Old High School, Former Times Record building, Longfellow and Hawthorne Schools.  In the case of the Times Record facility, it looks like we’re just gonna ‘write it off,’ as discussed here.
  • It now appears that the two Federal Street facilities are on the list for superseding and abandonment.
  • From all indications, the current Town Hall, which holds both the Police and Municipal staff, will be replaced by facilities which give the Police about 5 times the area they currently have, and the Municipal staff a similarly generous area in which to expand the size of local government.  (Compare the McClellan building to the current Town Staff offices.)
  • The Library, which I thought was an independent operation, is being solicited to provide requests for municipal capital funding over the next five years.  If you were them, what would you say?  This is equivalent to asking your kids how much they’d like for their allowance. The bookies, I am confident, will declare major deferred maintenance needs, and in all likelihood, the need for an East Brunswick annex, and a multi-story parking building where the current lot now stands. 
  • Public Works facilities are in the mix, though no suggested motion is provided in the agenda.  You’d think that if anyone was going to maintain what they have in good repair, it would be Public Works.  Admittedly, there’s no ‘community’ self-esteem involved here like there is in other more visible facilities.
  • Apparently, a parking facility at Maine Street Station might not cost us anything, to borrow a common theme, because federal grants could be available.  Here’s another idea: how about having the developer pay for it, since he apparently did not take parking into account in his planning.  OK; bad idea.  Taxpayers are always expected to pick up the slack.

Two things seem apparent when taking this all in.

The first is that in a municipal setting, the rule of thumb is to defer maintenance on public facilities (for the most part) so that they decline sufficiently to make new construction seem like the only viable course of action.  A well known advocate for Brunswick addressed such issues in a recent  published item:

Buildings need institutionalized advocates. A historical society is different from a preservation society. Brunswick suffers for want of an established preservation group.

(When it comes to schools, it should be obvious to all that the demands of the teachers’ union will always come before stewardship of public assets.)

The second is that the pernicious nature of the adjustable rate property tax eliminates any obligation for fiscal prudence on the part of town officials.  The concept of ‘living within your means’ is irrelevant, since ‘your means’ can be adjusted at will with a single vote of the council.  And it can happen because as few as a half dozen squeaky wheels complain about the loss of tubas in the school band or finger painting in first grade.

In the home financing domain, such a relationship is called predatory.  In a government setting, addiction seems like a more realistic view.  OPM (other people’s money) is the substance that leads to such behaviors.  It even allows prior claims of “we got the message” to be forgotten virtually overnight.

Funny, O-P-M, rolling off the tongue, sounds vaguely addictive.  So we’re seeing the results we might reasonably expect.

I suppose most will say we should cool our heels until we see what transpires.  As for me, I see all the telltale signs of the ‘we can get all the money we need in the next few years’ approach to fiscal planning.

By the way, have you noticed how shabby BJHS, Coffin, and Jordan Acres are beginning to look?  I wonder why. When are we going to do something about it?

3 comments:

  1. IN THE SAME VEIN, HOW MANY OF YOU REMEMBER THE STATEMENTS OF TOWN COUNCIL MEMBERS WHEN THE ISSUE OF BUILDING CAME UP THAT IT WAS DANGEROUS, LEAKING,AND WASN'T CONDUCIVE TO EDUCATING OUR YOUNG OOMPA-LOOMPA'S , THEN, LO AND BEHOLD WE RENTED THE VERY SAME BUILDING TO TOPSHAM FOR 5 YEARS. OF COURSE THEN IT WAS IT GREAT SHAPE ETC., SO WHERE DID THE RENTAL MONEY GO? SHOULDN'T IT HAVE BEEN USED TO MAINTAIN AND REPAIR A 1939 BUILDING? AFTER ALL BOWDOIN COLLEGE HAS BUILDINGS GOING BACK TO THE EARLY 1800'S, BUT GEE OUR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS ARE MORE ATTUNED TO WHAT OUR LITTLE EINSTEIN'S NEED TO FULFILL THEIR DESTINY...NOW PUT FINGER IN MOUTH!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The big issue, according the school superintendent, is the $1.5 million loan payment for the new, as yet unopened Taj Mahal school on MacKeen St. It seems not long ago "they" were claiing we had to have it because it was "free" state money. The voices will echo in the halls of learning because it will only be half full.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Brunswick lives within its own little bubble. Do any of the town councilors even hear what's going on nationally (i.e. the possibility of government "shut-down" because of disagreements where the budget should be cut)? What about State cuts? There's no cutting in this town. The full-steam ahead approach to spending leads one to ponder...dare I say it? Are there some kickbacks in the works?

    ReplyDelete