Douglas McIntire

Douglas McIntire

I had a great first car growing up — a 1953 Chevy restored to mint condition by my dad (with a little help from me when he was away on deployment). Sure, I kept it shiny when I felt like I had the time but in retrospect, I really don’t feel like I did enough to conserve and maintain this antique entrusted to me.

I was 18 years old and on top of being a senior at BHS, I worked at Brunswick True Value and Sears. Often, I would change my clothes in the car and it looked and smelled like it. There were of McDonald’s bags under the seat and for at least a week, a bra residing on the passenger side.

Later in life, I owned plenty of things but still feel like I’ve never put the value I should in upkeep.

There were work tools I used as a professional woodworker — dull, rusted or left out on a worksite. There was the Chevy Cavalier I thought would run just fine as long as I believed in the power of positive thinking in lieu of regular maintenance. Even today, there’s a wraparound porch threatening to really affect my homeowner’s insurance.

Covering many town and school meetings in Brunswick, I had an epiphany — I’m a product of my environment. As a true son of Brunswick, I naturally tend to let things work themselves into a state of disrepair.

Don’t scan down to my email address before you hear me out.

My moment of clarity came when I was covering a meeting where the former facilities manager for the school department was being grilled and essentially accused of letting Coffin School and the junior high crumble to dust.

At the same meeting, school budget dollars were being whittled away — some of those dollars were designated to making sure the walls held the roof over student’s heads.

The manager was being told he was doing a lousy job keeping the facilities in one piece while at the same time hearing that his monetary needs were too extravagant.

I left the meeting, filed my story and stewed on what I had just witnessed. It was soon after when I found myself in a discussion with a town official about the degrading conditions at the public works building and Central Fire Station.

While attending the old high school, even as a student, I heard about how we needed a new building — not from the students or teachers though. It was the buzz we heard around town. There was a pervasive attitude that the school was falling down and needed to go.

Sure, the floors were a little uneven and the radiators made burping noises before finally coming up to full steam around May, but it never occurred to us that it was beyond repair.

The repairs and renovations needed never came. The building fell into limited use as the auditorium roof crumbled and the building was abandoned.

It’s not that I don’t like the new school — I love it, in fact. I just wonder, if we had only taken better care of our toys, would they have lasted considerably longer?

It’s like our collective minds made the decision at some point to push the inevitable and stop taking care of such structures so we can get shiny, new ones. Is it possible?

I suppose you could ask yourself when the green bridge last had a fresh coat of paint on it. Has the mindset moved to, if we allow it to look like it’s going to rust through and fall into the river, will we just get a new bridge?

Sure, the offer is there but is it necessary?

Conservation of iconic landmarks is always more expensive and time consuming than demolishing and replacing but think of it — for a great many years, we were a town of three bridges.

We had the black bridge, the road portion of which was allowed to decay until it was eventually blocked off and finally demolished. There’s the swinging bridge — a bridge that had several missing boards in the 1980s and was finally saved by citizen efforts. Finally, there’s the green bridge, left to rot until the benevolent Maine Department of Transportation turns it into a nondescript slab of concrete.

Many will say it’s a taxation problem — taxes are too high and so we cannot maintain our structures. So, we wait and passively observe their demise, hoping the state or federal government will step in and replace them when they finally become a safety hazard.

The problem is it’s our burden to preserve our things — take care of our toys, if you will, instead of letting a high school become a once shiny bike left out in the snow over the winter.

In the meantime, I’ll just sit here and look at the pictures I took at the last public tour of BHS before it was demolished and maybe go outside and see if my porch will hold out another winter — maybe the state will fund a new one in a few years.

Douglas McIntire is a writer and educator from the Midcoast and can often be seen touching up rust spots on the green bridge, one square inch at a time. He can be reached at [email protected]

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