Officials from the Maine Military Authority and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority are meeting Monday as part of ongoing negotiations, while Gov. LePage is asking the Legislature to approve a $7 million bailout for the state-owned enterprise in Limestone.
MMA executive director Tim Corbett and other officials are meeting with leaders of the MBTA in Boston on Feb. 6 to continue discussing the fate of a $19 million contract for the renovation of 32 buses and how to go forward.
Work on the MBTA buses at the MMA has been halted since September, when Gov. Paul LePage froze the contract and said the agency would try to renegotiate it to avoid a shortfall being placed on taxpayers.
The apparent underbidding of the contract stemmed from its complexity, condition of the incoming buses and unexpected part and supply issues, according to Brig. Gen. Douglas Farnham, who oversees the MMA as commissioner of the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management.
MMA and MBTA officials declined to comment on the the status of the renegotiations ahead of the meeting, which have been taking place since last fall.
“They are still hoping for the best,” said Susan Faloon, public information officer for the Maine Emergency Management Agency.
In tandem with the renegotiation effort, Gov. LePage is asking the Legislature to include in this year’s supplemental budget a $7 million package to help the MMA.
The $7 million injection from state surplus revenue would help the MMA complete the MBTA contract and allow the agency to rehire 35 workers who were laid off in December, Farnham said in testimony on Jan. 18 to members of the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs. The funding also would help the MMA “pivot” to garner new contracts, Farnham said.
Farnham added that this would be the first time the MMA received funding from state taxpayers, and that the agency has regularly returned surpluses to the state’s General Fund and to a tuition assistance program for the Maine National Guard.
The MMA was created as “an instrument of the state of Maine” in 1997 to offer military vehicle repair services at the industrial park of the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone. At its peak, before the drawdown of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, the MMA employed 500 workers devoted largely to renovating humvees, and before last fall’s layoffs employed about 70 people.