BRUNSWICK, Maine — The construction of a new training center for the Maine Army National Guard that has been years in the making got a $23 million boost from federal funding and the signing of a construction contract last week.
For the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, it means a continuation of military presence in Brunswick that traces back to World War II.
Lt. Col. Dwaine Drummond, director of facilities and engineering for the Maine Army National Guard, said groundbreaking on the new facility at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, which is designed to replace existing armories in Gardiner and Portland, could happen by the end of October. He anticipated that construction could be complete in the summer of 2014.
The Armed Forces Reserve Center, being built near an existing Marine Corps Reserve Center that opened last year, will support the mission of the Maine National Guard’s 133rd Engineer Battalion and other units, according to Drummond. He said the two facilities were meant to be built at the same time, but the Department of Defense’s decision to close Brunswick Naval Air Station in 2005 skewed the timeline. BNAS is now known as Brunswick Landing.
Drummond said the proximity of the two buildings, which will be contained together inside a secure, fenced-in area, allows for efficiencies in things like parking and operational costs.
“It’s gone from a very long and painful process of planning and acquiring funding to the point that we are now on the verge of construction,” said Drummond. “We came to the conclusion that co-locating is in the best interest of the Department of Defense and the taxpayers.”
The reserve center, which will be staffed for about 28 days per month, will be used for the storage of military equipment, administrative offices and training. It will include locker rooms, dining facilities, an assembly hall and a maintenance bay. He said there is no firing range associated with the facility.
U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins said in a joint statement recently that the U.S. Department of the Army had awarded more than $23 million to the project, which was designed as a highly energy-efficient facility with a vegetated roof system and solar panels to generate electricity.
“This Army funding is certainly welcome news and will help continue to make vital infrastructure improvements at Brunswick Landing,” said the senators.
Drummond said the project was designed by Oak Point Associates in Biddeford and, according to a contract signed last week, is being built by New Hampshire-based J.C.N. Construction Co.
Drummond said decisions have not been made on what will happen to the armories in Portland and Gardiner, though he expected the old and antiquated Gardiner facility will be razed. He said it’s possible that a reserve unit based in Westbrook could move to the armory on Stevens Avenue in Portland.
Units based at the new armory typically would deploy overseas by flying out of military installations to the south of Maine. Drummond said there are no current plans for the Marine Corps or Army reservists to use the Navy’s former airfield’s twin 8,000-foot runways or hangars, which are being converted to a private airport.