LIMESTONE, Maine — More work could be on its way to the Maine Military Authority now that Sen. Susan Collins has secured an assurance from Dr. Joseph Westphal, undersecretary of the Army, to send representatives to Aroostook County to explore options for new work at the Limestone facility.
The Maine Military Authority employs 370 workers who refurbish vehicles for the Army National Guard.
Officials in Limestone are looking forward to the visit, Tim Corbett, executive director of MMA, said Monday, as the facility seeks to line up work in light of a decrease in the workload it usually sees from the National Guard.
Because of federal cuts and the downturn in the economy, MMA has not secured as many contracts as in past years. Corbett said that MMA officials have been aware of the decreased workload for some time and have taken steps to deal with the situation.
“We saw this coming, and we have been trying very hard to find other types of work to replace what we have lost from the National Guard,” he said. “We are very pleased that the senator has been working to assist us.”
Collins first raised this issue with Westphal, former chancellor of the University of Maine System, before his confirmation hearing last year. She also secured a commitment from Army Secretary John McHugh to assign Westphal to work with her and with state and local officials on a plan to secure adequate work for the facility.
“I appreciate Dr. Westphal’s recognition that the Maine Military Authority does cost-effective work in refurbishing Humvees and other vehicles. It consistently performs this work at a lower cost than the Army’s own depots,” Collins said. “It is encouraging that the Army intends to look at MMA as an area where it could achieve savings by having more work directed to that unit, which provides high-quality, low-cost work for the Army.”
Corbett said Collins has always worked hard on behalf of the facility. Last year, the senator secured $20 million in a defense spending bill to fund continued maintenance that saved 175 jobs in Aroostook County.
Corbett said he is optimistic that MMA will secure new work in light of the visit by the Army representatives.
“These are very serious people, and they do very serious work,” he noted. “They don’t go anywhere unless they have a real purpose. I am very encouraged that we have gotten the attention of those at the highest level of government.”
While he acknowledged that new work is not guaranteed, he said he felt MMA would “get a fair shake” when contracts are being considered.
He added that MMA has work lined up through the rest of the year.
“We are stable as far as work this year, so we are just working to line up work for next year,” he said Monday. “You always have to be thinking ahead.”
Kevin Kelley, spokesman for Collins, said Monday that no date for the meeting has been set, but it is expected to take place in the next few weeks.