BANGOR, Maine — The state is asking contractors and developers to register their interest in building a new forensic psychiatric facility in Bangor.
The LePage administration is asking a developer to purchase 6.28 state-owned acres on Hogan Road, listed for $495,000, and build an 8,300-square-foot, energy-efficient secure forensic rehabilitation facility that the state would lease for the next 30 years. The deadline to register interest is May 23, according to the Bureau of General Services request for qualification packages.
LePage’s original proposal for the facility, which would house people found not criminally responsible for crimes they have committed or who are unfit for trial, called for a private company to lease and operate the facility. But the latest documents indicate the state will operate the center.
“The project will specifically be constructed and exclusively leased and occupied by the state of Maine,” it states.
The filing of the documents appeared to mark the state’s first official step in building a facility since LePage in December expressed interested in the state-owned property at 159 Hogan Road. Democratic legislative leaders previously blocked an effort to built a 21-bed facility next to the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.
“They decided the piece of land is the best location and best suited for the use and took it off the market,” real estate broker Chris Paszyc of CBRE The Boulos Co. said Tuesday.
Rep. Aaron Frey, D-Bangor, has proposed bills to increase the role in caring for forensic patients at Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center, a 51-bed, state-run psychiatric treatment center on State Street in Bangor that is the only federally certified mental health facility in Maine. Every one of those bills has failed.
“Clearly, the governor is doubling down on what he has determined to be the best place to build it,” Frey said Tuesday, adding that LePage has not discussed his plans for the forensic unit with the members of the Legislature, including how he plans to pay for it.
“There has never been a clear outline about how this is going to work,” Frey said.
Building that facility is part of LePage’s plan to help restore federal certification of the state-run Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta, which lost its federal accreditation in 2013 for overcrowding, inadequate staffing, and for using handcuffs and Tasers to subdue violent patients.
Riverview is tasked with handling psychiatric evaluations for those accused of crimes, as well as handling all who have been deemed unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible for crimes they committed, many who no longer need hospital-level crisis care.
Lawmakers have expressed concerns about how patients would be evaluated and referred to the facility and about what protections would be put in place for patient, staff and public safety.
Attorney General Janet Mills also said in Jan. 24 memo to members of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee that LePage will need legislative approval to move forward with the project in Bangor. The timeline in the request for qualifications does not include any reference to such a vote.
The developer for the project should be selected by mid-August and must finalize the option to purchase the land before the end of November, the request states.
City Manager Cathy Conlow said late Tuesday that she had not yet read the request documents dated May 1.
Construction is expected to begin in April 2018 with an March 2019 opening date.