There is a popular song from the aptly named Broadway show, “Rent,” that asks how one measures a year.  The lyrics ask just what sort of metrics would you use.  Minutes, miles, midnights, the point is that the perspective of how you measure that time is as varied as there are ideas.   

In Brunswick we could measure time by saying that it is being wasted.  Wasted by the Town Council as they squander month after month trying to figure out just what sort of restrictions to place on the shelter ordinances. 

It was reported last week that it has been a year since the group that runs the Tedford Shelter approached the town about opening a new shelter.  A year that could have been spent planning and fundraising.  A year that could have been spent finishing the endeavor.  Instead they have been mired in meetings being knocked around like a children’s pinata. 

Why has a year been wasted?  Well the Council, after having approved a new set of ordinances, found out that they had forgotten to include any type of language that would define shelters or communal living situations.  Never mind that the shelter already exists.  Never mind that there are multiple communal living type settings in Brunswick.  Nope they just forgot.     

The timeline for the decision-making process has been long.  In this past year the ordinance issue has been brought to the Town Council, which turfed the issue to a Shelter Task Force made up of Councilors.  The Shelter Task Force had multiple meetings.  The task force then sent recommendations back to the Council who spent time considering it.  From there public hearings were conducted.   

You must be thinking that the public hearing was the end of it.  And you would be wrong.   

After the public hearing the Planning Board got into the mix with not one, not two, but three workshops.  The Planning Board then punted the questions back to the Town Council who had an additional two more workshops on the shelter conundrum.  Currently the Council is looking to have even more time to really flesh out the issues with a third workshop. 

The Council is even considering laying conditions down that any new shelter would have to adopt to be able to open in town.  Things like having emergency plans and a maintenance plan have been discussed.  A code of conduct has been mentioned.  Even mandating the hours of operation.  Didn’t the Council forget to write in the language into the zoning ordinances that would have alleviated this entire year long ordeal?  

Perhaps the Council, in this case, is the wrong body to be telling someone else how to conduct their business.  These requirements are designed to make it difficult for a group to open a new shelter in town.  You don’t have to worry about a shelter opening in town if you regulate it to death. 

All the while those who are most in need of a place to temporarily call home are left to wonder why it is so hard to get this done.  

Perhaps the real reason that it has taken this long is that some on the Council just don’t want to see a shelter, either the current one or a future one, in Brunswick.  A shelter does not fit the pretty picture of what Brunswick is, with white clapboard houses and black shutters, or maybe a picket fence.   

Some of the people on the Council will talk all day long about being inclusive and welcoming people to Town, but just watch the roadblocks they have put up against a shelter.  The Council has been long on talk when what is needed is action.  Unfortunately, the people who rely upon the services that the shelter can offer will continue to get lip service and that is all.    

If I was the intemperate sort, I would provide the contact information for each of the Town Councilors below and tell you to call them, preferably between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. when they are getting home from work or eating dinner, to express your dissatisfaction with how long this process has taken.  I would tell you that all it takes is a handful of voters to make your voice known and for the Council to take notice.  

Alas, I am not that sort of person to blatantly put that information out there.  However, if you were looking for that sort of thing, I would visit www.brunswickme.org/departments/town-council.  All of the information can be found there.   

Jonathan Crimmins can be reached at [email protected] 

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