A divided Brunswick Town Council approved a $3.25 million plan to replace the sidewalks downtown with a combination of brick and concrete Monday evening, bringing a three-year saga to a controversial end.

Nearly every one of the more than two dozen residents and business owners who spoke at Monday’s public hearing supported a more expensive all-brick option, which some argued would have been a savvier long-term investment and a more attractive design.

Instead, the council voted 5-3 for the cheaper option, citing the need for fiscal responsibility at a time when inflation is squeezing many around the Midcoast.

“People are really struggling in a way that I haven’t seen in my years,” Councilor Abby King said after nearly three hours of questions, deliberation and public comment. “I cannot in good conscience vote to raise taxes at a time like this because some people think that brick is prettier.”

Brunswick first started working toward upgrading its downtown sidewalks, which are made of precast concrete unit pavers, in 2018, according to Economic Development Director Sally Costello. According to residents and business owners, the degrading condition of the walkways poses a safety hazard, especially for older adults and others with limited mobility.

Portland-based engineering consulting firm Milone & MacBroom presented all-brick and hybrid options to the council in fall 2020, but officials delayed making a decision on the project so staff could gather additional input from the public.


In November, after analyzing several slightly tweaked proposals, the council settled on essentially the same two options they started with: all-brick or hybrid sidewalks along Maine Street that would run from Mill to Pleasant Street.

Residents at Monday’s hearing were strongly in favor of the $4.25 million all-brick plan, even though tax increment financing would have failed to cover the cost of the purchase. Costello suggested the $935,000 shortfall would have likely required tax increases.

Some residents argued brick’s higher up-front cost would be offset by lower maintenance costs and a longer lifespan — 60 or more years, as opposed to 40 for the hybrid option.

“We need to look at this as a dollar cost averaging solution,” resident David Doyon said. “It may cost more to install, but it’s going to last a lot longer.”

Many speakers focused on brick’s aesthetic advantages, citing the surface’s “New England charm” versus concrete’s propensity to stain.

“What is missing in this discussion is, ‘What will it feel like?’” said Lisa Bossi, a color and design consultant. “Concrete is used in strip malls and parking lots.”


More than 20 residents and business owners shared their preference for brick before anyone spoke in favor of the cheaper hybrid option, which the Downtown Streetscapes Committee and the Brunswick Downtown Association endorsed two years ago.

Margo Knight, chairperson of Brunswick’s Downtown Master Plan Implementation Committee, warned the room’s willingness to foot the bill for the project didn’t reflect the voices of many low-income residents not present at the hearing.

“We’re looking at long-term options, but some of us can’t look at long-term options,” she said. “We’re looking at whether we can pay the bills right now.”

Though Knight stood as hybrid’s lone champion during the public hearing, a majority of council members shared her view. After briefly considering whether it would be possible to design a reduced-cost version of the all-brick plan, five councilors decided to move forward with the cheaper option already on the table.

They cited several expenses the town has or will soon be taking on, including a recent $4 million land purchase in the Maquoit Bay watershed and an upcoming effort to revitalize Cook’s Corner.

“If this is about increasing the aesthetics of the downtown to benefit businesses … why aren’t businesses filling this $935,000 gap?” said Councilor Steve Walker, referencing resistance to a proposed special tax assessment on downtown stores that would have paid for the brick. “I’m not seeing it.”

Dissenters Dan Ankeles, Kate Foye and Jim Mason appeared frustrated their colleagues voted against what appeared to be the strong preference of their constituents.

“We are tasked with making decisions that are going to be reflective of the conditions for the next 40, 60 years,” Mason said. “We’re not even going to get 10 years before we regret this one.”

Town staff project construction on the new sidewalks, which will take two seasons to complete, will begin next June.

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