Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Well, if you can’t take a joke…..

OK, we were only kidding about that parking garage!

We remember some years back when Jim Ashe, erstwhile Brunswick School superintendent, decided to employ some ever so helpful members of the Government Consultant Industrial Complex to prepare applications for state funding to replace one or more of our schools.  At a council meeting, he told all assembled that he wasn’t proposing or planning to build a new school, ‘but just wanted to see it state funding was even a possibility.’

We didn’t recognize Kool Aid as quickly back then as we do now, so his explanation was taken at face value.  Big mistake.  He knew full well that if any of the applications were approved, it was a political certainty that town folk would be powerless to stop the tsunami of “it’s for the children” publicity oozing from the schoolies. 

Once an application was sort of approved, we heard it all. “We can’t turn down a ‘free’ school; that would be crazy;”  “if we don’t take the money, someone else will just get it; it won’t save anything;” etc. 

What a snow-storm descended upon us.  It didn’t hurt, of course, that our own Johnny Richardson (remember him??) was then a major power in the legislature, and prepared to ‘help’ our application succeed.  We seem to recall there was an unexplained expansion of the approved list by one application after the first results were published.  Funny how that works.

The Jim Ashe we refer to is the very same one who moved on to take the place of our current Town Manager, across the bridge in that uppity little backwater with the fancy-schmancy municipal complex.

Recent news reports about the proposed downtown Brunswick multi-level parking garage (take that, Topsham!) stirred a rush of fond memories from those glory years.  You can find the report here:

   Without grant, Brunswick sees no need for downtown garage.

Turns out our application to fund construction of the garage was denied.  Looks like this is a time when local SOB’s failed to come through.  (Note to Senator Stan, the minority man: if you want to achieve lofty OUR SOB stature, you’re gonna have to do better than this!  You will be running again, right?)

But guess what!  Turns out we were only kidding, in a manner of speaking, about the need for that big city parking structure.  So no harm done, apparently.  You’d think kidding about the need for a $3.4 million capital project would be a no-no.  And you would be wrong on this, like so many other times when you think rational thoughts.

We’d like to know who the consultants were that helped us out on this application, so we can watch to see if they get any more of our tax dollars.  Hopefully not, but you know the old saying!

One of the more ‘fascinating’ passages in the report is this one:

But town staff now say that additional parking there may no longer be necessary.

Town Manager Gary Brown said based on conversations he has had with the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which operates Amtrak's Downeaster, the demand for long-term passenger parking may not be as great as initially expected.

What???  Could this be the first ‘walking back’ of the rosy projections that the train would bring 35,000 visitors a year to Brunswick, or 100 a day?  Say it isn’t true; we aren’t prepared for an attack of the vapors!  Trusting citizens have long been convinced the train would bring ten times the visitor traffic of the current bus service, because, well, just because!

As a closing note, our Town Manager indicated he may bring in someone from the trusty Government Consultant Industrial Complex (GoCoInCo??) on a slightly different question:

Brown said he is considering contracting with a parking consultant to determine what the demand could be when the train service begins.

The results should be interesting, assuming it isn’t the same consultant that helped us with the grant application for the garage.  Or the ones that sold us on the back in parking spots on Station Avenue.

Last thing we need around here is a multi-story parking garage with a corkscrew ramp system that you have to drive up backwards in order to “calm” the parking lot.  Although it might fit nicely with the emerging Disneyesque zeitgeist here in town.  We might even have the exterior done in a Matterhorn motif, painted by willing members of our local creative economy.

I wonder if we’d be able to use the old E tickets we have saved up from years ago?  Hopefully the line won’t be too long.  We’re getting too old to wait for our thrills.

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