Friday, February 17, 2017

Case in point: why Brunswick needs a full time property manager to protect taxpayer interests


Just the other day, we wrote of the need for REAL CHANGE in how Brunswick manages its facility assets, and we included a memo we’re sending the Town Council to propose a policy change that does so.  You’ll find it here:

Shortly after posting the item, we recalled the case of the McLellan.  And a post on the subject dated three years ago:

The ‘road to the McLellan’ was a tortured one, though we don’t expect you to remember the details.  We discovered from our earlier work that the original estimate for remodeling to meet the needs of the town was $100,000.  That figure quickly doubled.  Next thing you know, it was in excess of $1 million, or ten times the original estimate.  We’re not sure how much the final total was.  This was a lesson, ignored as usual, that competence in such matters is an unknown quantity in local governance, especially when various councilors are intent on selling us on an idea.

The post from 2014 included these pictures to express concern over the exterior condition of the building, and to scold Bowdoin College for their lack of diligence in maintaining the building; we mused as to why that might be.  Regardless, the images show a sad and shabby state of affairs three years ago.   In the real estate world, this is called ‘deferred maintenance’ to make it sound like a “normal” occurrence.  In the real world, where the rest of us live, this is called “letting things go to hell.”



You know how time flies.  Or runs, or swims, or walks, or takes the train if you see things differently.

We visit the McLellan from time to time for various purposes, and we usually take note of the condition to see if the situations above have been repaired; those shown are symptomatic of the overall condition of building exterior trim, and who knows what else.

Given our recent thoughts on building care, we were shocked, you might say, to realize the exterior deterioration of our ‘new’ Town Hall has been going on for three years at the very least since we took possession.  So we inquired as to when repairs would be made.

We were told repairs would begin this year, and that the budget for the work is in the range of $200,000.  Your guess is as good as ours as to where the number will actually end up.  The devil is in the details, and the proof is in the pudding.

Experience with our own home proved that a few cracks and dry rot spots here and there could be telltale indicators of far more serious and pervasive underlying damage.  We hope for our own sakes that this is not the case here, because we’ll all be paying for it.  But only time will tell as the contractor begins to rip off all the effected areas to assess the damage.

The real question is how a responsible municipal government could allow such clearly progressive decay to continue for three years without taking decisive action to eliminate the problem.

The question answers itself, we think.

And unquestionably makes the case as to why Brunswick needs a single point of accountability at a senior reporting level for managing the overall care of our hundreds of millions worth of physical assets.

We’er making the proposal; but Frank Lee, our experience in such matters gives us no hope that we’ll see any action taken by our betters.  So we’re not holding our breath that things will change, or betting any of our personal funds on the outcome.  We envision that discussing the situation will cause too much public embarrassment for the council and the school department, and so they’ll avoid it like the plague.

But in keeping with the opening principle, we’d be happy to hold your breath or bet your shekels, because it wouldn’t involve any risk or consequences for us.

If only everything in our lives worked that way.  Why is it that government (“all of us”) can get away with such behavior and never seem to be held accountable, but those of us who pay the bills for their irresponsibility can’t?


They used to call that “the $64,000 question.’

Now a days, it’s more like the million dollar question.

Just for starters.  Or a quick off the cuff estimate.

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