Friday, February 23, 2018

Here in Brunswick, we’re known as givers. You don’t mind paying for it, do you?


Brunswick has a contingent of penny-pinchers when it comes to what makes sense for municipal spending and what doesn’t, and we have not a shadow of a doubt that Side is viewed as a charter member of that group.  We’re proud to be so, because  it means we have a healthy respect for OPM….other people’s money.  OPM is the mother’s milk of those who like to signal their virtue by lavishing it on the cause celebre of the moment or the era.  We also delude ourselves into believing we have common sense, and respect for fellow residents.

As we often quote,

“No one spends other people’s money as carefully as they spend their own.”

Witness the recent vote to establish Sanctuary Brunswick, as we discussed in this recent post:

The proponents of that resolution will claim it has no financial consequences, but that’s a load of bull.  Stating that no funds were appropriated to back it up is to misrepresent the consequences of announcing that we are open and affirming and welcoming to any and all, especially without regard to their immigration status.  But let’s not dwell on those nits.


Instead, we come to you today to discuss Brunswick’s new found love of drones.  We don’t imagine many of you remember the “No drones for Brunswick” movement that surfaced briefly, and even sprouted bumper stickers, as base closure proceeded and rumors of it being a site for testing of military “drones” was rumored. 

“Drones” was used in a pejorative sense, because the subject vehicles were more correctly identified as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAV’s.  For a while, these were an item of some interest in Defense planning, since they could take on a number of roles of manned aircraft without the risk to human lives inherent in the latter.

In the blink of an eye, UAV’s were eclipsed by drones more akin to sophisticated toys.  In fact, our grandson got one for Christmas.  Even the most basic include a video camera as it’s basic payload, and the video is digitized and available live to viewing devices on the ground.  Note the use of the words “unmanned drone.”  That’s deceptive; there may be no one inside the drone, but it can’t operate without “manning” on the ground controlling it and monitoring its video.  Not to mention the overall planning for its use and routine patrol plan.  (Pardon us for using the terms unmanned and manning.)

This particular drone related story, appearing January 17, 2018, is our main focus here:

A question immediately came to mind as we read the story:  why isn’t this a NNEPRA, PanAm, or Amtrak responsibility, instead of Brunswick’s?  These are private rights of way; not Brunswick’s public jurisdiction.  We’re probably out of our league here legally.   We assume the plan is to monitor the entire extent of the right of way within Brunswick borders, which will include the track and crossings east of Brunswick Station when the summer service being proposed goes into effect, taking passengers to Rockland.

Brunswick police patrol our street from time to time, which means they’re looking for suspicious activity on our residential properties, at least to the extent they can see on these properties.  The road they patrol is a public way, not a private thorofare.

But we don’t expect them to employ drones to monitor activity on our property, nor would we want them to.  Even though we pay significant sums via our property taxes to fund their patrols and related actions. 

We can think of lots of things Police could use drones for in monitoring behavior in the public domain.  Among them jay-walking on Maine St, and running of stop signs at Woodside and  Pleasant Hill, and Pleasant Hill and Church Road.  These uses could even generate revenue to offset the costs.

None-the-less, we are perplexed by the notion of our Police taking on the responsibility for monitoring Downeaster operations.  To begin with, this could/should be handled by NNEPRA and Amtrak personnel using strategically located video cameras.  It appears to us that cameras are located at the Church Road grade crossing, and likely elsewhere.  You can see the camera in this photo of the equipment installation adjacent to the crossing.


Furthermore, we know for a fact that Amtrak has their own police force.  We’ve seen them here in town as shown in this snapshot, taken near the Town Hall:


So as far as we’re concerned, NNEPRA, Amtrak, or Pan Am has the responsibility for monitoring the safety of the right of way utilized by the Downeaster, including the “rail yard” area on which the Layover Facility is located.

In case it hasn’t occurred to you, real time monitoring by the Brunswick Police, which is the only kind that makes sense if “accidents” or other public safety violations are to be avoided, will require installation of monitoring equipment at Police HQ, and assignment of personnel to pilot the drones and monitor their video 24 hours a day.  Recording will be required for use in any legal proceedings that might pursue.  Then there’s the planning and reporting required to conduct such surveillance.

Where are the detailed concept disclosure and cost estimates for providing this service?  Where is the plan for reimbursement by NNEPRA?

Or will the entire cost of this service be added as a surcharge on Downeaster tickets sold for arrival and departure at Brunswick station?


Talk about causing a case of the vapors…that should surely do it.

But as you probably can guess, we don’t really give a fig.  Or a banana, or a case of mangoes.

This is not our responsibility, and it’s not yours either.  The total burden for this effort needs to land on the desk of Patricia Quinn at NNEPRA, and she’ll have to decide how to pay for it.


Which, given the Downeaster business model, means we’ll all end up paying for it anyway so we can keep Ambassadors and other local dignitaries happy.  We all know they aren’t willing to travel by the same conveyances we little people use.

Like we said, Brunswick is a town of givers.  Even if the gift needs to be compelled from us by government. 

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