Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Like we’ve said before, it’s good to be a King in Cape Brunswick


And elsewhere, we should add:

By now, you should remember without prodding that Brunswick Taxi (BT), owned by Dale King, husband of long time former town councilor and council chair Joanne King, who was also a BDC board member, received a quarter million dollar grant from the Brunswick Development Corporation in July of last year.  Or as they defined it, a totally forgivable loan.  With not a single payment due before the date on which forgiveness is effective (“on or before” Aug 1, 2016.)

No pain, no strain, as we used to say.


We’ve also reported more than once that we can’t fathom the local governing elite stubbornness about locating the Amtrak MLF at the Brunswick West location, adjacent to the Bouchard Drive neighborhood.   We’re convinced though, that at least in part it relates to swallowing whole the conceit promulgated by NNEPRA that unless the MLF is built there, Amtrak/Downeaster service to Brunswick will disappear.  We’ll be expanding on that notion in the future.


We’ve also told you that the self-same Brunswick Taxi firm is providing transportation for Amtrak crews between Portland and Brunswick twice a day, seven days a week.  Which raises the obvious question of how much Amtrak is paying them to provide this service, and how much that has influenced the resolve of local influential parties to keep Amtrak coming to town, and therefore, ensure the MLF is built at Brunswick West. 

The cost for this service is just one more of numerous burdens of Amtrak operation  hidden from the public, and therefore masking the financial realties of passenger train service.

Attempts have been made for some time by interested local parties to find out how much Brunswick Taxi is being paid.  Official channels, FOIA procedures, and our state delegation have all been avenues of inquiry.  

After a good deal of bureaucratic shuffling, delays, obfuscation and other machinations, the result to date is that Amtrak will not disclose what they’re paying for the service. Like good bureaucrats, they use multiple layers of ‘private parties’ to place the contract, as we told you before,  like Wichita, KS based Crew Transportation Services, etc.

Lacking hard data, we’ve decided to make our own estimate of how much Brunswick Taxi is probably receiving, based on two factors: this is the government; and how much limo service between Portland and Brunswick goes for.

Our estimate at this point is that BT is probably getting in the neighborhood of $300 for each round trip, since as many as 4 or more crew members are being transported.  Twice a day, seven days a week, and you’re looking at $4,000 a week, or about $200,000 a year.  Compare that to the cost of leasing a vehicle for the same purpose, at say, $1,000 a month tops!

Quite a deal for BT, especially when they’ve been handed $247,000 gratis for buying new vehicles.  In a prior post, we asked if any reader believes that the idea of such a grant just popped up out of nowhere after Joanne left office and her post on the BDC board.

In the same vein, we ask whether the contract for crew transport came out of nowhere after the same transition, keeping in mind that train service began in November of 2012.

Any way you look at it, it’s pretty clear that the prosperity of at least one local business interest is coupled very tightly to Amtrak continuing to come to Brunswick.  Not that this would effect anyone’s lobbying with the right authorities to see that it does.

We suppose our estimate could be off, but since the FOIA process yields no results, our guestimate will have to be good enough, at least until such time as Dale King chooses to release documents showing how much the government pays to further subsidize Amtrak service to our little outpost.  Keeping secrets is all the rage, you know, especially among the ladies, who often learn the lesson at a very early age.

One more thing; we have to wonder whether this lucrative contract was factored in to BDC deliberations before deciding that a quarter million in free money was necessary to keep BT alive, ‘for the good of the community.’

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