Brunswick’s three-year sidewalk drama may have another act yet.

That’s the hope of a group of residents and business owners lobbying the Town Council to reverse its controversial December vote to install brick-concrete hybrid walkways downtown.

“In my bones, I just know the brick is a better long-term solution for the town,” said Randall Arendt, one of four members of the public who pushed for an all-brick option at Tuesday night’s council meeting. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

After receiving hundreds of letters and listening to dozens of speakers at public workshops and hearings over the course of several years, Brunswick’s leaders went against public sentiment in choosing the $3.25 million hybrid plan, which consulting firm SLR International Corporation estimated would save about $1 million compared to the brick sidewalks. The final 5-3 vote, while narrowly decided, appeared to be decisive.

But on Jan. 17, District 2 Rep. Steve Walker said he was open to switching his vote after Riley Insurance Agency owner Dave Millar told the council he thought local business owners would be willing to cover some of the cost of the all-brick option, which they feel is more aesthetic.

“I feel like there’s been a disconnect,” Millar said. “I think if the community was approached, there would be people that would certainly contribute to this.”


Millar could not be reached to discuss whether business owners are working on an organized plan to fund the project.

Many residents continuing to lobby the council have cited reports written by Arendt, which claim the brick option could cost significantly less than current SLR estimates and provide significant savings over the project’s 40- to 60-year lifespan.

In a memo titled “Basic Brick at the Hybrid Price,” Arendt, a retired landscape planner who has written over half a dozen books on the subject, noted most of the difference in cost between SLR’s brick and hybrid plans is related to a concrete base layer along the edges of the sidewalks in the former plan. Arendt said conversations with Maine Department of Transportation engineers and public works directors from around the region have reinforced his belief that this layer is unnecessary.

At the Town Council’s Dec. 5 public hearing, SLR consultant David Dickson called the concrete base “imperative,” noting bricks’ propensity to pop out of place. Yet he struggled to articulate why the bricks in only one of the two plans required the base, leaving some councilors frustrated.

“He couldn’t explain it,” Arendt said, “because there was no explanation.”

Removing the concrete base at the edges of the brick sidewalks along with a separate layer of mastic (which many public works directors call unnecessary, according to Arendt) could cut the up-front cost difference between the two plans to about $350,000, according to the report. Arendt suggests several ways to reducing the town’s costs further, including cutting the project’s budget for new planters, trash bins and benches; replacing the main walkway’s concrete base with asphalt; and rallying private businesses to raise money for the project.

While Walker is skeptical SLR’s all-brick plan truly includes hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs, he said he’s excited by the prospect of businesses raising money that could allow the town to fund the brick proposal without raising taxes.

But given the town has already begun spending money preparing to put the hybrid plan out to bid, Brunswick’s downtown leaders will need to organize quickly for Walker to consider changing his vote. His final decision, which could set up another public hearing and council fight, will come down to how much the town has already spent preparing its hybrid bid, how much money businesses pledge to contribute and whether changing course would delay urgent sidewalk repairs another year.

“I would want to see a serious timeframe from the businesses,” Walker said. “We’re up against the clock here.”

Comments are not available on this story.