Gov. Paul LePage’s plans to build a secure psychiatric facility in Bangor hit a roadblock on Monday night when the Bangor City Council voted to postpone the project for six months.
The city’s move is in response to LePage’ s plan to build a 21-bed “step-down” forensic psychiatric facility on Hogan Road, which would house patients who have court permission to leave the facility on occasion.
The moratorium, which takes effect immediately, gives the city a six-month delay for the project during which it would study the facility’s potential effects and develop standards for it — such as security measures, buffers and its distance from streets and other properties. It could also rezone the parcel on which the psychiatric facility would be built.
Councilors have been frustrated by what they call a lack of communication from the LePage administration about its plans. Several councilors also criticized the proposed location, since it abuts an apartment complex and is near several single-family homes.
“Many people saw the need for this facility and think that these people will need a place to be treated, but question if that’s the right location,” Councilor Dan Tremble said. “I just think we need time to put the right standards in place because it’s going to be located in Bangor.”
The LePage administration has said that the proposed Bangor facility will alleviate overcrowding at Augusta’s troubled Riverview Psychiatric Center, which lost its federal accreditation in 2013 because of overcrowding and inadequate staffing and for using handcuffs and stun guns to subdue violent patients.
Councilor Sarah Nichols objected to LePage’s plan, saying that since the step-down unit is meant to complement Riverview, it should be built in Augusta so that patients could benefit from a continuum of care.
The governor’s spokeswoman, Julie Rabinowitz, did not respond to requests Monday for comment on the council’s action.