BANGOR, Maine — U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud praised the renovations under way at the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building during a tour of the facility Friday, saying they will benefit both taxpayers and the environment.
The federal building on Harlow Street, once home to the U.S. Postal Service, has been under renovation since last year. The project is being paid for by $53 million in federal stimulus money, of which $33.8 million will be spent on construction, with the remaining money going toward design services, according to the U.S. General Services Administration, the agency that oversees federal property management.
The renovations are focused on upgrading the building’s interior. Only minimal changes will be made to the exterior, mainly the replacement of all windows and the construction of a new entryway.
Michaud, who toured the building for the first time Friday, said that despite the price, the payoff will be far greater.
“I know there have been some concerns with the costs, but I’ve always been focused on the aging infrastructure in our country,” he said. “Whether it’s highways, rails, ports or buildings, we have to address these kinds of things.”
Gianne Conard, a regional recovery executive with the GSA, agreed.
“We always said this building had good bones. These renovations have been about a systems upgrade — to replace many things that are really beyond their operating age,” she said in explaining why stimulus dollars were primarily allocated to fix the structure’s interior.
Among the building’s new features will be upgrades to the air conditioning, electrical and elevator systems, as well as to the office space in the 42,000-square-foot area that formerly served as a loading dock for the postal service.
Michaud said he was most impressed with the geothermal assisted heat pump that will reduce the building’s energy consumption by 44 percent. Even though installing the system was a major cost, Michaud noted, it will pay for itself in five years because of its ability to reduce energy costs.
“Anytime we can make a building green, it has an added benefit,” the 2nd District congressman said. “Projects like these ones, no matter how small or large, will help the United States well into the future and assist in reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”
According to the GSA, the renovations are helping the local economy by involving more than 500 local construction personnel in the project. When it is complete in November 2013, the building will have earned its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification.
After his tour, Michaud was scheduled to attend a meeting at the Eastern Maine Development Corp.’s offices to discuss future GSA projects with business leaders from the local construction industry. He said the purpose of the meeting was to address complaints he has heard in the past from various companies on how difficult it can be to go through the federal contracting process.