BRUNSWICK – If Brunswick Naval Air Station closes, transforming the base into a commercial airport may be tough.

That’s one of the early findings of a town-commissioned study examining the what-if potential of the base.

The study by a New Hampshire-based firm, RKG Associates, is still under way, said Donald Gerrish, Brunswick’s town manager. However, the company has highlighted some early concerns.

“They’ve found that the market for the air base is questionable,” said Gerrish.

Planes of almost any size can land on the base’s parallel 8,000-foot runways. And though more than $100 million has been spent at the base in the past few years – including a resurfacing of the runways, a new hangar and the current construction of a new tower – the commercial demand is uncertain.

In a computer slide show to the Town Council on April 11, RKG worker Craig Seymour highlighted the expense of operating and maintaining the facility and the limited demand.

Part of the demand may have been seized by the former Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, N.H. That base closed in 1991. Now called Pease International Tradeport, it serves as an air cargo destination.

If the Brunswick base closes, Gerrish believes the first duty of the town would be to create a development authority.

Part of its job would be to watch what happens to the base housing.

More than 750 homes currently sit on Navy land in Brunswick and Topsham. The majority of them were built in the past five years, funded by the Navy and run by a private company, GMH LLC.

Gerrish said he doesn’t know what would happen to the homes if the base closes. But they would be part of a long list of questions to be answered in the coming months.

In all, the base occupies 3,220 acres of land, stretching from the downtown to Harpswell.

“No one knows exactly what’s going to happen,” Gerrish said.

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