April 04, 2020

Group to start planning for Loring’s future

LIMESTONE — A group of state and municipal officials will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday for the first time to begin formal discussions about what to do with Loring Air Force Base after it is closed in 1994.

The meeting will be held at the Officers’ Club at Loring AFB.

Topping the agenda will be a discussion about the proposed structure of a reuse and adjustment committee. The committee will include representatives of six communities that will be affected by the closing.

The committee, which was proposed during an earlier planning session, would be the entity with which the federal government would work to transfer the military post to a non-military user.

The federal government plans to close Loring during federal fiscal year 1994. Although the Senate has yet to vote on a list of military installations proposed for closure, the list has been approved by the House of Representatives and President Bush. The list was formulated earlier this summer by a federal commission on base realignment and closure.

Officials hope that a consensus will be reached Tuesday on the committee’s structure because work on an environmental impact statement is scheduled to begin soon, said Robert Clark, executive director of the Northern Maine Regional Planning Commission.

Clark said Friday that the reuse committee should be involved in the development of the environmnetal impact statement because that statement will identify facilities that could be of use immediately after closure. In addition, the committee’s establishment will allow local planning officials to apply for funds from the federal Office of Economic Adjustment to pay for the committee’s activities.

At present, NMRPC is paying the cost of Loring reuse activities and has spent $5,000 to $7,000 thus far, Clark said. Most of the funds are from the dues paid by NMRPC community members.

According to the proposed Loring Economic Impact and Readjustment Committee, each member town would have two votes, while the county’s representatives would have three votes.

Towns to be represented on the proposed 15-member committee would be Limestone, Caribou, Caswell, Van Buren, Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield.

The elected body of each town is to appoint two voting members and alternates to the committee, while the county commissioners must appoint three members from the Presque Isle-Caribou labor market areas. The county representatives must not be members of a voting community, according to the proposal.

Each community also will be responsible for contributing funds to match federal funds available for reuse activities.

Ex-officio and non-voting members will be from the governor’s office, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, U.S. Office of Economic Adjustment, three members of the state’s congressional delegation, the county’s state legislative delegation and directors of the Loring Closure Office.

Although Congress has yet for formally approve the base closure list, closure activities have already begun at the military post. A closure office was opened there two month ago.

According to Lt. Col. Robert Manning, closure office chief, the first phase of closing Loring will focus on development of the environmental impact statement. The second phase will be the “inactivation” of the base over a period of four to six months. During that time, a majority of the base’s aircraft and personnel will leave.

After planes and personnel leave, the inactivation of support facilities, such as the hospital, base exchange and commissary, will begin, Manning said.

At the end, the process will enter a caretaker phase, where the transition to another entity will occur. Manning said the base’s infrastructure and property will be protected until its ownership has been transferred.

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