The Brunswick Town Council will host a public hearing Dec. 5 to gauge feedback on a long-awaited project to replace the town’s degrading downtown sidewalks, which officials and business owners say are safety hazards.

“Something has to be done regardless of what type of surface is eventually decided upon,” said Debora King, president of the Brunswick Downtown Association. “We’re just getting tired of Band-Aids.”

After lengthy deliberations, the council voted to present two plans at the public hearing: an all-brick option that will cost an estimated $4,225,000 and a brick-concrete hybrid version that would likely cost closer to $3 million. Both plans would replace the current Maine Street sidewalks between Mill and Pleasant streets.

Brunswick first started working toward upgrading its sidewalks, which are made up of precast concrete unit pavers, in 2018, according to Economic Development Director Sally Costello. A year later, the town expanded the scope of its Downtown Streetscape Enhancement project to include lighting, trees and landscaping from the mall to the Route 1 overpass.

Yet as Brunswick broadened its vision, it delayed beginning construction on its sidewalks. Since consultants from Portland-based Milone and MacBroom first presented the Town Council with brick and hybrid replacement plans in October 2020, estimated costs have increased by hundreds of thousands of dollars while the current walkways have continued to erode.

“I’ve helped people with walkers and stuff try to get down there,” Councilor Kathy Wilson said of the sidewalk along the mall. “I’ve watched people nearly break their neck and fall.”


Over the last few years, the design team has gathered public input through workshops, open houses and a survey as well as developed several different possible versions of the project, Costello said. On Monday, she presented a variety of options, including some that involved replacing sidewalks along the east side of the mall and some that included a special tax assessment on downtown business owners to help fund the project.

The council, visibly weary after a lengthy public hearing earlier in the evening, initially struggled to determine which of the proposals to send to public hearing. But Costello stressed it was important to settle on a project quickly or the town might not be able to find a contractor to begin work next summer.

“We don’t want the price to continue going up,” Councilor Abby King agreed. “We need to make a decision.”

The council eventually elected not to include the sidewalks on the east side of the mall in the current project, noting the town might be able to use its smaller sidewalk replacement reserve to pay for those upgrades. (Brunswick recently paved sidewalks on the mall’s west side.) It also chose not to include a special tax assessment, placating business owners but leaving open the question of how Brunswick would afford the all-brick option.

While tax increment financing revenues could cover the cost of the hybrid option, they would be about $900,000 short of the total needed for all-brick sidewalks, according to Costello. She suggested the town’s general fund could settle the deficit, which may require tax increases.

Councilor Dan Ankeles and some members of the public expressed disappointment that the council didn’t also send plans for the sidewalks along the mall to the public hearing on Dec. 5. But Councilor David Watson urged the need for fiscal responsibility, citing the town’s recent $4 million land purchase and an upcoming project to revitalize Cook’s Corner.

“I just want to remind people that we have some significant challenges before us,” he said. “We don’t have a money tree.”

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