BANGOR, Maine — After decades apart, Maine State Police troopers and investigators in the Bangor area are back under the same roof.
Maine State Police Troop E has settled into its new home near Bangor International Airport, bringing together divisions that have been separated for at least 25 years due to lack of space in the former barracks, a 60-year-old building on Main Street in Orono, according to commanding officer Lt. Wesley Hussey.
The Orono barracks had outlived its usefulness, and the troop had long since outgrown the 3,300-square-foot space, Hussey said. About 25 years ago, the Major Crimes Unit, then called the Criminal Investigation Division, left the Orono barracks in favor of office space in a wing of a former mental hospital on the state-owned Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center campus. The Computer Crimes Unit also was based at Dorothea Dix.
Both Major Crimes and Computer Crimes units have moved out of Dorothea Dix and set up shop at the facility. The move happened quietly and quickly in mid-November. Only dispatchers remain in the Orono barracks, and they’re expected to relocate sometime in the spring after renovations to the airport buildings have been fully finished, Hussey said.
The renovations gave state police a large meeting and training room, something that they have lacked for decades. When police were in the midst of their investigation into the death of teenager Nichole Cable last year, they had to set up a command center on the third floor of the historic Penobscot County Courthouse because neither Dorothea Dix nor the Orono barracks had a large enough space available, Hussey said.
In all, about 55 people will work out of the barracks at the airport. Troop E covers Penobscot and Piscataquis counties and patrols 107 miles of Interstate 95 from Newport to Sherman.
State police started looking for a new base in 2008, but the money wasn’t in the budget because of the state’s financial situation at the time, according to the lieutenant.
“It got back-burnered, and we were able to limp along in Orono,” Hussey said.
In early 2013, Maine State Police brokered a deal with city officials in Bangor to rent a pair of vacant buildings on airport property for 10 years, with the option for two 5-year renewals after the initial term.
Along with the main barracks building, known as Building 195, police are leasing Building 92, a 4,000-square-foot storage building, which would be converted into a garage used to service and repair Maine Department of Public Safety vehicles. Both buildings had been vacant since the mid-1990s, according to the airport.
The city offered to renovate the buildings, for about $400,000, in an effort to put the buildings back into use. The lease starts at $111,300 for the two buildings, and rent will increase in 5-year increments until it reaches $129,750 in the 20th year of the lease.
The move gives the troop about 9,000-square-feet more space than it had at the Orono barracks.
Hussey said the state decided on the airport location for several reasons. It has easy access to I-95, I-395 and major arteries leading to Bangor’s surrounding communities.
One of the more appealing features of the airport site, according to Hussey, is the fact that it has a communications tower left standing from its days as Flight Service Station for the Federal Aviation Administration. The Maine Department of Public Safety could upgrade it to use as part of a statewide digital communications system called the Maine State Communications Network.
The state eyed other properties as a potential headquarters. Among those were Dorthea Dix because it already housed some units. Hussey said the design of the building, a historic psychiatric hospital wing, wasn’t conducive to what the troop wanted.
Offices were easy to place in the building, but structural support placement would have prevented renovations from opening up a large meeting area.
Hussey said that while the new space will provide improved communication and convenience for the state police units, there’s still a bit of nostalgia tied to the old Orono barracks.
“The Orono barracks was a bit of a staple for the state police,” Hussey said. “But this new facility will carry us well into the future.”
After dispatchers vacate the building later this year, the state’s Bureau of General Services likely will sell off the property.