June 20, 2018
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School for autism among 4 operations coming to former Brunswick Navy base; call center also possible

By Beth Brogan, BDN Staff

BRUNSWICK, Maine — A school for children with autism and a “green, waste-to-energy” plant are among four organizations and businesses that will take over buildings at Brunswick Landing, the local redevelopment authority board of directors voted unanimously Tuesday morning.

A call center, bringing 80 to 100 jobs, is also negotiating to locate at the former Navy base, according to Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority. Levesque said Savi Systems, with principals from the Midcoast — whom he declined to name — plans to establish the call center pending a successful lease negotiation.

Besides the property for the planned school, the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority will sell buildings to Seeds of Independence, which is a program for at-risk youth, and the Mid-Coast Veteran’s Council, for a veterans service center. In addition, the agency will lease property to “waste-to-energy” company Village Green Ventures.

Levesque said he anticipates the school and Seeds of Independence will create 40 to 60 jobs at the former Brunswick Naval Base. The three combined sales are expected to generate $1.6 million for the MRRA, he said.

Pending completion of a purchase-and-sale agreement, developer Jim Howard of Priority Group LLC in Topsham will buy the Navy lodge and adjoining recreation building, for $1.1 million, where he plans to operate a school for children with autism and developmental disabilities.

The 36,000-square-foot school — a branch of a national company that Howard declined to name — will include students from day-care age through high school. It will be across the street from Southern Maine Community College’s Brunswick campus.

Howard, who said he will make $1.5 million in renovations to the buildings, expects construction to begin in 60 days, with the school in the building by the beginning of August.

“It’s great that the town, the state and the MRRA are now working together,” Howard said, noting recent tension among the three entities over tax breaks and jurisdiction. “We’re seeing a lot of projects, like mine, come together. I hope they continue that.”

Also approved Tuesday was an offer of $510,000 by TBW, LLC, to buy two buildings for a counseling and coaching center for at-risk students and adolescents for the nonprofit Seeds of Independence. The organization works with students from Brunswick, Mt. Ararat and Freeport schools who are in the juvenile justice system, TBW, LLC principal Tom Wright told the MRRA board.

In addition to other approvals Tuesday was an amendment to increase the acreage leased by Village Green Ventures, which will build an anaerobic digester, a “waste-to-energy” plant that delivers a biogas plant capable of delivering up to 1 MW of power, according to a Feb. 22 memo from MRRA facilities and public works director Tom Brubaker.

And the Mid-Coast Veteran’s Council will purchase a small housing unit for $100,000 for its veterans service center.

Updating the board, Levesque said the majority of transfers from the Navy have taken place, but the MRRA has discovered that “some buildings are in tougher shape than we thought.”

However, with federal budget cuts likely, the Navy, which is “already short-staffed,” expects furloughs, Levesque said.

“Environmental remediation is going to be cut,” he said. “We can probably expect somewhat of a slowdown in transfers.”

Levesque said Tuesday that with the Brunswick Planning Board’s approval last week of subdivisions on the former Navy base, the MRRA can move forward with the sale of properties like those approved Tuesday.

“We’re excited to finally reach this point where we can do more than just lease stuff,” he said. “We have developers interested in doing other things — [developer] George Schott is looking to go forward [purchasing the former Navy hotel], and we are going to close on a number of those deals next month.”

Among those deals may be a new call center that could set up in the former building 250. If the center — which Levesque declined to name — chooses to come to the base, it would bring 80 to 100 jobs, he said.

“Hopefully, we’ll have announcements in the next few weeks,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Jim Howard of Priority Group LLC would lease the former Navy lodge and adjoining recreation building, where he plans to locate a school for children with autism. The earlier version also incorrectly identified Tom Brubaker as a principal with Village Green Ventures. Brubakers works for MRRA.

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