LIMESTONE, Maine — A contract executed by the Maine Military Authority was halted by Gov. Paul LePage Friday after he announced that it had been underbid, a move that he said resulted in unexpected costs to taxpayers while also threatening jobs at the Aroostook County facility.
Susan Faloon, special projects coordinator for the public information office of the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said early Friday evening that the full details of the matter, including how much the contract was underbid, were not yet known.
LePage said Friday that the problems dealing with the $19 million contract with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority to refurbish 32 articulated transit buses had only recently come to his attention and he expected to give more details “in the coming weeks.”
Faloon said that employees at the Limestone facility were approximately one third of the way through completion of refurbishing the buses as required under the terms of the contract and it has become apparent that “it was not possible to make it profitable.”
“It was then determined that they really had to take a step back,” she said. “The costs were not being driven up by any one thing, but they had been working toward reducing costs throughout this entire process and still, it just was not working out.”
Officials at the Limestone facility said that they could not yet comment on the news, which could affect good-paying jobs for their more than 50 employees.
“We only recently got this news,” said Tim McCabe, director of business development.
He added that company officials were going to consult with officials at MMA and the Department of Defense and possibly hold a press conference or release a statement on Monday.
The governor and U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins had touted the MBTA deal back in 2014, stating it would help sustain jobs at the Limestone company, which was forced to lay off about 140 workers after losing contracts with the National Guard Bureau to refurbish military vehicles.
On Friday, Brig. Gen. Douglas A. Farnham, who serves as adjutant general of the Maine National Guard and also as commissioner for the Department of Defense, said in a written statement that the goal now was to protect jobs and taxpayers.
“While we continue to work toward reducing costs as we renegotiate the contract terms, we must be reassured about the continuation of this contract as we move forward. We cannot in good faith create a financial burden to taxpayers and we will work to protect these good jobs for Mainers,” he said. “We intend to personally discuss the issue with MMA staff and Massachusetts officials and act appropriately.”