Friday, February 17, 2017

Cape Brunswick…..jumping into the deep end


Every now and then, especially in the dead of winter after two feet of snow, it’s good to remind ourselves that we live in Cape Brunswick, the best and richest little town in America.

Which recently welcomed a new candy store in town, giving us two.  That’s two real candy stores; the kind you can walk into and buy something.

Turns out there’s a third candy store in town, but it’s a virtual one.  It’s the one where Town Council and School Board members act like Cape Brunswick’s little rich kids in a candy store, gorging themselves on every sweet treat they can think of, fully expecting ‘their parents’ to pay for it.

They can do that because all the important necessities, things like roads, storm drains, sewer and water lines are in tip-top shape.

But, you might say, we need a new school, a new Central Fire Station, and a new Dump.  Oops!  Make that a Land Fill.  C’mon; those are the fruits and vegetables and protein and fiber of community life.

So it’s time for the kids to make a visit to the virtual candy shoppe and find some new treats to gorge themselves on, and this time the sweet treat is called “Municipal Aquatic Center.”  How can we deny them these goodies, given our prime location in one of the coldest climates in the lower 48, and the inacessability of ocean waters for refreshing ourselves ‘naturally.’


You’ll find the feasibility study here:

It’s in the packet for the Town Council meeting of Tuesday, February 21st.  It includes a cost estimate of $3 million, an operations analysis (revenues will exceed expenses!), and a ‘market analysis.)  You can trust the consultants who wrote this report, because they’re not like all the others.

The survey that was done at the request of the Parks and Recreation Department can be found here:

We were sure we’d posted on discussions regarding such an Aquatic Center some years ago, but damned if we could find it; maybe you can.

But don’t worry about that; our town employed a ‘national leader’ to conduct a survey to prove unequivocally that town residents are clamoring for such an aquatic facility.  That firm is known as the ETC Institute, and they specializing in helping communities make better decisions.  Which reminds us of a local firm called Good Decisions that recently helped our school department come up with a strategic vision.  Here’s a glimpse at ETC as they see themselves:

Connecting Communities

ETC Institute's research is implementation oriented to help clients achieve their short- and long-term goals and objectives.


And highlights of their strengths:

Our ability to effectively listen and involve citizens and clients has given ETC Institute a reputation as the premier public policy market research firm in the country. ETC Institute’s services focus on involving citizens, users, and stakeholders in the decision making process and developing creative and sustainable funding strategies.

Core services of the firm involve conducting statistically valid phone and mail/phone services and related market research. We have conducted more than 600 surveys for parks and recreation systems in 49 states across the Country for a wide variety of projects including parks and recreation master plans, strategic plans, and feasibility studies.

Since 1992, the principals and associates of ETC Institute have helped secure funding for more than $2.5 billion of parks and recreation projects. The firm has extensive experience conducting surveys as components of plans leading to successful voter elections. ETC Institute’s work allows the community to see itself in their planning efforts, providing buy-in and trust in the process.


Side, of course, is not riding in his first rodeo, so we take the above ETC self-description for what it is: a promise that they will give you the outcome you want, with lots of collaboration buzzwords sprinkled about to make everyone feel good about themselves.  Those of you with fewer saddle sores may have to read the passage multiple times to grasp what it says ‘between the lines.’

The fact is that the survey was never going to consider the possibility that no such facility should be planned or built.  It wasn’t going to begin with a question like “do you think this is a dumb-ass idea, or a good idea?”  Or “do you think a town with a winter that lasts nine months should build an aquatic facility?”  Or “would you like the town to compel other people to buy you a lovely place to swim whenever you feel like it?”  Or “do you think the town should build a luxury like an aquatic center when it needs two new schools, a new fire station, and a new dump?”

Now the really good news; the agenda for next week’s meeting shows that the new school referendum, the aquatic center, and the Central Fire Station are all on the table for discussion.  See the agenda here:

Seems like this is a good time to review the shopping list for the virtual candy store, not including such frivolities as streets, sidewalks, curbs, storm drains, and water and sewer systems.

  • New Elementary School: $28 million
  • A new Junior High School, sure to follow:  $35-40 million
  • Central Fire Station:  $10 million or so, plus millions more for new rolling stock that will fit in the new facility
  • New Dump (Land Fill): $10 million
  • Aquatic Center:  $5 million (yeah, we know, the consultant estimate says $3 million, but that’s just a SWAG…a starting point before the real candy shoppers have their way)

You can add that up anyway you like; we’ll call it $90 million in what will all eventually be described, if not yet, as essential community expenditures. 

Accordinly, we think the Town Council needs to fess up and come clean.  In recent discussions on the Elementary School construction proposal, they had our Finance Director isolate the cost of the new elementary school and project the financing and tax increases it would require. Instead, they should have her do a projection for the aggregate of all major capital projects on the table, and present the financing profile and property tax increases they would collectively generate.


Trick or treat anyone?  We think that if town officials came clean on the numbers we call for, your reaction would be much more like a good Halloween scare than an all expenses paid visit to a candy store.

Which might be a good thing; you know what happens when you eat too much candy.  Next thing you know, your teeth are rotting, and you need tens of thousands of dollars in dental restoration work.  While you can buy dental insurance, we’re not aware of any property tax increase insurance.


Though we suppose you could call the duck or the gecko to check.  While you’re at it, watch the local media outlets for incisive analysis of the local outlook in such matters; they’re known for their intense focus on the details of such profound local evolutions.

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