June 16, 2019

Response to LDA request imminent> $35 million in federal funds would go toward Loring maintenance

LIMESTONE — Officials working to redevelop Loring Air Force Base may learn today whether the federal government will financially support maintenence of the former bomber base for the next 20 years.

The state’s congressional delegation is scheduled to meet with the Air Force late Thursday afternoon regarding a precedent-setting request for $35 million to help maintain the 10,000-acre base while the facility is being marketed.

Without the increased support, Loring reuse officials say that neither the local communities nor the state can afford to accept the base property.

Officials of the Loring Development Authority of Maine met with Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall in March and presented their formal request. The LDA had hoped to have an answer within 60 days in order to present the financial package to the Legislature.

A reuse plan for the base estimated that it would cost $40 million to market, redevelop and maintain Loring. The state has been asked to contribute $5 million toward the cause over the next 20 years.

“We don’t know” what the Air Force’s response will be, said Kathy Gest, spokesman for Sen. William S. Cohen. “We, of course, are hopeful that they are willing to make some accommodation for Loring and the LDA.”

The meeting is scheduled to take place at Cohen’s office at 5 p.m. with all four of the state’s delegation meeting with Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary Philip Upschulte. LDA Executive Director Brian Hamel also will be in attendance.

In its request, the LDA asked for $10.5 million to finance capital improvements and to demolish deteriorating base housing units. The remaining funds would be used to support reuse efforts until revenue derived from marketing the base exceeds costs.

After 2010, if any money is made, the LDA would start repaying the federal government with 40 percent of the profits realized. In another part of the deal, the LDA would keep the two 12,000-foot runways in a ready state if they might be needed by the government.

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