As Bowdoin prepares to move its offices from the first and second floor of the McLellan Building by Hannaford to various locations on campus, the Town of Brunswick is debating how to pay for the building’s higher-than-expected renovation costs.
At a meeting last Thursday, the Brunswick Town Council discussed possibilities for financing the renovation of the building, located at 85 Union St., which they estimate will cost nearly $1 million. The town plans to use the building as a new town hall.
“A lot of this discussion has arisen because the price has escalated,” said town councilor Benet Pols.
Some councilors want to take out a bond that would allow the town to pay the cost of the renovation over ten or 15 years, while others prefer using cash reserves to pay for the renovation.
The Council is slated to decide whether to keep the borrowing option on the table on November 18.
According to Pols, the office of the town manager originally estimated that the renovation would cost around $100,000 in Spring 2011, said Pols. That estimate increased, first to $200,000 and then to over $750,000. The final cost is ten times more than the initial estimate.
As a result, Pols supports keeping the option of borrowing open, which he said would provide a “hedge against raising taxes” in the event that the town needed more revenue to pay for the renovations up front.
“It’s pretty typical to borrow for big capital expenditures, when it starts to go up over three quarters of a million dollars or so,” he said.
According to an article in the Bangor Daily News, the renovations are now estimated at $805,000, with $88,000 in architect’s fees and $60,000 for a contingency fund.
Pols emphasized that authorizing the use of a bond now does not commit the town to using it later—that decision would come toward the end of the fiscal year next June, when a clearer picture of the town’s budget will be available.
Some council members are wary of borrowing.
“The risk they see is that borrowing puts a small amount of pressure on the budget for the next ten years or so,” said Pols.
The Town acquired the building, located at 85 Union Street, on December 22, 2011. In exchange, Bowdoin received Longfellow Elementary School. The school was turned into the Edwards Center for Art and Dance this summer.
Meanwhile, Bowdoin is preparing to move its employees from the first and second floors of the former McLellan Building in December. That move was scheduled for spring 2014, but the town’s construction moved faster than expected, said Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration & Treasurer Katy Longley.
Currently, those two floors house the Controller’s Office, Office of Communications, Office of Human Resources, and the Interactive Media Group.
As part of the agreement with the town of Brunswick, the College can use the third floor for ten years after the sale. The Office of Communications and the Interactive Media Group will move to the third floor, while other offices will move elsewhere, according to Longley.