Tuesday, March 5, 2013

LT Ben, Reporting for Duty!


Publisher’s Intro:

We told you last month that along with B. S. Balderdash and W. T. Fugawy, we recently added LT Benjamin Dover to Other Side staff, and we’re pleased to say that this post is his first major effort for our humble publication.  Known to his friends as Ben, Dover is shown above in a photo we think best symbolizes his role with our publication.

In case you’ve forgotten, “LT” stands for Local Taxpayer.  In formal settings, his name is announced as “Ben, Dover, Local Taxpayer.”

Ben is a whimsical sort, full of good humor, and we thought showing you a few items from his office wall would help you get to know him better:



From this point on, the talking stick belongs to Dover:

Greetings, inquiring minds of Brunswick and beyond.  What an honor it is to address you on the most critical issues of our time.  Our publisher, P. C. Poppycock, has asked me to author a background piece for an upcoming post of his. 

So please bear with me as I do my best; while things may seem a bit disjointed, everything we pass along here is a part of the larger puzzle that is Brunswick and its governance, if you can call it that.

Let’s begin with an assertion that Brunswick, or the Town of Perfect as our publisher likes to call it, is America’s Richest Little Town.

Since 2005, Perfect has built a new fire station, a new school, a new salt shed, and invested deeply in a new downtown station complex.  In the works are a new Police Station, a new Municipal Office Facility, more new schools, and a new School Bus Maintenance and Storage Facility.  Waiting in the wings for the right time to act is a new Central Fire Station, which will complete a 10 year whirlwind of replacing almost every town facility of both the School Department and Municipal Government.

Not bad for a small town in one of the poorest and oldest states in the nation, and one that has seen the closure of its iconic institution, the Brunswick Naval Air Station, in recent years, with consequent loss of population vitality and economic activity. 

As a side note, the town purchased, renovated, and then tore down a facility at a total cost of $3 million or more, all for naught.  Unless you consider bare ground a worthwhile investment.  This seems to be a habit here in town. And yet many wonder why the country is going bankrupt at breakneck speed, city by city, and soon, state by state.

You might want to reread this post from nearly two years ago to provide additional context for where we are headed.

If you’ve never heard of the terms ‘mission creep,’ or ‘being ramped,’ or ‘water drop treatment,’ trust us.  You are being subjected to them all in what has transpired since the start of the current school year last fall, and what is unfolding now as the budget season goes into full swing.

Let’s set some terms of reference.  The conversation over the last year or so has addressed ‘renovating’ Brunswick Junior High School (BJHS) and Coffin Elementary School, which share a common campus on Columbia Avenue.

Let’s see what the word renovate means:


verb (used with object)

1. to restore to good condition; make new or as if new again; repair.

2. to reinvigorate; refresh; revive.

It seems appropriate to review various recent pronouncements on this subject.

This one is encouraging, especially as it relates to stewardship of community owned facilities devoted to ‘our children.’

School buildings aren't being kept in good condition, the department's director of facilities told the School Board Wednesday night.  (snip)  The total value of the department's facilities is $88 million, Facilities Director Paul Caron said. But the cost to fully repair all of the buildings has risen to $44.4 million, more than 50 percent of their total replacement value.  From: http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2012/04/school-department-priorities-in-case.html

And then there’s this:

January 30, 2013

• Option 1 – Additions only at Coffin Elementary School
• Option 2 – Repair and code issue upgrades
• Option 3 – Energy code conformance update
• Option 4 – Full renovation for 40 year Life Cycle

• Option 1 – Additions only at Jr. High School
• Option 2 – Repair and code issue upgrades
• Option 3 – Energy code conformance update
• Option 4 – Full renovation (except 1983 building)



Perhaps some local ‘public servant’ can explain how these options stay within the confines of ‘renovation.’

As a bit of an afterthought, we found this item in the meeting notes of January 30, 2013 of some interest:

27.  PDT will be preparing estimates for the additions at both schools repair and code upgrades, energy code upgrades and a full-renovation for both projects.  PDT will also provide an estimate for a new elementary school at the Coffin Elementary Site, a new Middle School and a new Elementary School at the Jordan Acres site.

You’ll find the document here: http://www.brunswick.k12.me.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/january-MEETING-NOTES.pdf

Three new schools?  What’s the big deal? We’re the richest small town in America, and we can’t have a new Police Station and old schools, can we?

We shouldn’t end the discussion without a review of the political context for these deliberations.

From a historical point of view, I can’t help but remind you of Jim Ashe telling the Town Council that he had no plans to build a new school, but that he ‘just wanted to find out if the state would even consider financing such a project.’  Oh yeah; HBS, thy name is Jim Ashe along with the help of John Richardson, at that time, a member of top leadership in the State Legislature.

In addition, we now have Brunswick Community United, or as the publisher calls them, ‘the schoolies.’  Here’s where they stand on the concept of renovations:

We have not yet heard a specific time frame identified for this project – either for the decision-making period, or for the construction.  While we understand the Board is considering this a renovation project, rather than a new construction project, the current plans would represent a dramatic expansion of the number of current classrooms and the size of our schools.  This level of investment requires substantial community involvement.  By holding these workshops, the Board would demonstrate that that (sic) it committed (sic) to transparency in its decision-making and that it will continue to be effective stewards of the community’s funds.

Does that sound like ‘renovation’ to you?  And can you ignore the complete absence of effective stewardship?  Of course you can, if ‘it’s for the children!’

Also playing into the mix are the latest ambitions of local politicians.  In this example, Johnny “Protocols” Richardson shamelessly panders to the BCU schoolies:

Richardson, a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate who replaces former Chairwoman Joanne King on the council, said balancing the needs of public education funding with redevelopment efforts at Brunswick Landing will be his major focus.

"There's a lot of talk about corporate welfare for Kestrel, but you're not hearing enough about the need for local school funding."

"Brunswick is a local education town, and we pride ourselves on having a strong education system," Richardson said, "and we're in jeopardy of losing the benefit of our local public schools if we are moving too far in one direction."

From: http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2013/01/hes-baaaackkkk.html

You can’t imagine how proud I am to have written my first full column here on Other Side.  I hope you don’t mind if I show again the image that I proudly offer as my trademark.


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