The Maine Military Authority is set to receive $7 million through the governor’s supplemental budget, putting the state business on track to move forward on the paused contract to refurbish public buses for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
The Maine Legislature on Thursday approved $29 million in new spending in a supplemental state budget, including a $7 million rescue package for the Maine Military Authority in Limestone sought by the governor.
Brig. Gen. Douglas Farnham, head of the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management, said the budget passage is a good sign in moving ahead for the MMA, after work was halted on a $19 million contract to refurbish 32 high capacity buses for the Massachusetts transit system.
“That was the next step in the process,” Farnham said of the budget. “The ball will be back in MBTA’s court to finish paperwork.”
The MMA and the MBTA have been in talks since last fall and recently crafted a conceptual agreement to move forward to complete the contract, which relied on the supplemental state funding from Maine.
Under the tentative plan, the MBTA would add an additional $2.1 million to the project, while the MMA would commit to $6 million to cover losses on the initial 11 completed buses.
Maine officials determined last year that the 2014 contract was unintentionally underbid by the MMA, since rebuilding the dual diesel-electric buses was more complex and costly than predicted due in part to challenges in finding replacement parts.
About half of the MMA’s 65-employee workforce at the Loring Commerce Centre was laid off last fall as the MBTA work was put on hold, while the other half are currently working on contracts for school and municipal transit buses.
The $7 million package from the supplemental budget would allow the MMA to bring back workers for the MBTA project and to grow its business in other areas, Farnham said.
The MMA is currently working on bus refurbishment for municipal bus systems from Bangor and Biddeford, and is pursuing other opportunities for buses and heavy equipment repair.
“We hope that we’ll be utilized by more communities,” Farnham said. “We think it’s an affordable way to get refurbished equipment that’s nearly as good as new.”