Sunday, September 8, 2013

“Loose Ends”– Of the Brunswick Taxi Sort


We hope you’ll humor us for repeating images from prior posts, but 1) it amuses us, and we' don’t get paid for what we do; 2) said images often capture the ‘essence’ of the situation far better than our long-winded and sophomoric commentary.

Ironic, isn’t it, that your superannuated editor should use the term sophomoric in a rare moment of self-deprecation.  We’re full of surprises; it’s why you love us.  Now if the Pats would just spring a surprise or two and come back to win it……

You remember that we told you Dale King, owner of Brunswick Taxi, called us a few days after we broke the story on the BDC forgivable loan of a cool quarter million to his local transportation services company.

We passed along a comment or two of his in prior posts, including the one about factual errors, and we offered him wide open spaces to correct the record.  We even offered up a possible graphic for his use:


As you well realize, our pages are so-far unbesmirched by any follow up of his.

And we think it’s time to put on the record the rest of what Dale said to us in that phone call on August 21st.  Keep in mind that we are relating what he said, whether it was accurate or not.

Among other things, Dale said we ‘were being used’ by ‘others.’ We denied this, and asked him to tell us who he thought was doing so.  His answer was Senator Stan Gerzofsky.  That alone gives you some insight into the socio- and electro-political undercurrents here in our perfect little town.  And the nature of the fish swimming in those waters.  (Consider that a cryptic ‘hint’ of things to come.)

We assured him that was not the case.  On later reflection, we thought to ourselves that if reporting accurate information on governmental and quasi-governmental transactions, substantiated with public documents, is ‘being used,’ we’ve got far bigger problems of cultural attitudes around here than we’re competent to address.

At any rate, Dale began his story by telling us that he had read in trade-journals that ‘para-transportation’ is the big thing these days for building business and revenue. This is providing transport for handicapped/wheel-chair bound individuals.  He mentioned, as we told you before, that the train (God Damn you, Amtrak!) and base closure had hurt his business.

So he hired a business consultant, Scott Howard, to look for ‘a grant or state money’ for about $50,000 to purchase a van for his use.  There’s a message for you – the first thought of a ‘private business’ owner is to look for free/government money, rather than a loan from a lending institution.  Think about what that says as far as ‘doing business locally.’

One way or another, the trail led to the BDC to ask for a grant.  As Dale told it, Howard and the town’s Economic Development Director, who ‘staffs’ the BDC, said ‘a van doesn’t solve your problem, you need to do more.’  Dale didn’t seek $247,000; others took the number there.  And ‘BDC made it a loan.’ 

We don’t know about you, but we still have a very hard time thinking of a totally forgivable ‘loan’ with zero payments before the date (36 months) of forgiveness as anything but an outright grant.  Especially with such easy to meet conditions imposed to achieve forgiveness.

So you see, it wasn’t really Dale’s doing.  Sounds like they had to ‘twist his arm’ to take the quarter million.  (Wanna buy a bridge?)  And besides, Dale assured us – ‘the money’s not really going to us; it’s going to the car dealers.’

Now suppose the BDC gave you a quarter million to build a house of your own.  Would you be willing to tell folks in town that the money wasn’t really going to you, that it’s the builder and building supply folks who were really making out?

Maybe that’s a stupid question; if you stop and think about it, there are probably way too many people in this day and age who would do exactly that.  We need to adjust our understanding of a ‘business model’ accordingly.


Our questions on this subject will assuredly continue to grow, but we’ll leave you with just a couple today.

First, how much was ‘business consultant’ Scott Howard’s share for leading Dale to the $247,000 so-called loan?  Or does Howard offer his services pro-bono?  We have the feeling the word fungible comes into play here somewhere.

Second, of the new Brunswick Taxi vehicles we’ve seen so far, there are these:


and these:


We have seen at least two of each so far.  We find it curious that the color patterns are complete opposites on the two vehicles shown.  Could it be that they are operated by the same company, but have completely different origins, identities, and purposes?

Further, the first one above, shown trackside waiting for Amtrak crew, appears to be a pretty standard mini-van, like families everywhere have.  Nothing particularly innovative or ‘energy efficient.’  And it clearly isn’t ‘handicapped accessible’ or ‘14 passenger.’

The second type appears to be of a more innovative and ‘energy efficient’ type, though we don’t know at this point whether it is ‘handicapped accessible.’  It appears to be very much like this vehicle:

which you can read more about here and here.  We don’t see anything about ramps or other handicapped accommodations, but as before, Dale has open access to our pages to augment the info we provide here.

Oh…the second question; we almost forgot.  The vehicle purchase conditions imposed in the promissory note are these:

· $150,000 - Purchase 6 new energy efficient taxi-cab vehicles to drastically reduce maintenance and repair costs, save and increase business and significantly improve the company’s and the town’s images.

- $30,000 – Purchase one new energy efficient handicap accessible minivan to increase revenues by expanding the services to the handicapped, seniors and educational and medical institutions.

· $45,000 - Purchase a new 14 passenger van to retain business and to meet the projected increase in corporate and institutional demand from Bowdoin College, Mid Coast and Parkview hospitals, the Brunswick Transportation Center and Brunswick Landing.

Color us perplexed and of uncertain color scheme, but we don’t see where the minivan pictured trackside matches any of these conditions, but we do see where the yellow vehicle shown at the garage probably matches the first condition shown above.  So we’ll be keeping an eye out for further evidence that BDC money is being wisely spent and in compliance with conditions imposed.  It’s well known that we consider this public money, though others clearly disagree.  We’re guessing our eye is the only one that will be out, though.

And we’ll continue to wonder whether the two (at least) black themed conventional mini-vans stem from Amtrak funding, no matter how many intermediaries take their ‘taste’ before the rubber meets the road, so to speak, between Brunswick and Portland. 

Two round-trips per day, come rain or come shine.

PS: The Pats eked out the win.

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