May 30, 2020

Thomaston has plan for prison site Garage would be turned into public safety building if town acquires property

THOMASTON – Town officials have come up with a plan for the Maine State Prison maintenance garage and property once the 176-year-old landmark is leveled.

A lot depends on the state, according to Town Manager Valmore Blastow Jr.

Last week, some legislators were talking about scrapping the demolition this year in light of a projected $250 million state budget shortfall. Some urged reconsidering uses for the old prison rather than tearing it down after the new prison opens in nearby Warren.

First, the state has to decide if it wants to sell or give the property and garage to the town, Blastow said. Then, a plan would have to be approved by voters.

At this point, the state has no immediate plans for the disposition of the land and has not come to a final decision on tearing down several of the buildings, Elaine Clark, director of the state Bureau of General Services, said Tuesday.

A $1,474,000 contract to demolish all but four of the buildings recently was awarded to H.E. Sargent Inc. of Stillwater. The prison showroom and Maine State Police barracks will remain on the 24.8-acre property.

But the maintenance garage and a storage building may or may not be torn down. The state has until June to decide. If the two buildings are removed, it would cost an additional $8,000.

The main prison is slated for demolition shortly after the 400-plus inmates are moved to the new $76 million prison in Warren, which will have 916 prisoner beds. The cost of a new women’s prison at Maine Correctional Center is figured in with the Warren project, Corrections Commissioner Martin Magnusson said last week.

On Tuesday, Blastow discussed a plan that the town has for the prison property if it owned the land.

If the town acquires the property, the maintenance garage would be turned into a public safety building. The Police, Fire and Ambulance departments would be housed in that one building, Blastow said. There are 15.6 acres that the state possibly would sell or transfer that could be transformed into green space after the demolition.

The 7,400-square-foot structure has numerous vehicle bays on the first floor and finished office space on the second floor, according to Blastow.

With the Fire Department gone, the existing fire station on Knox Street could become the town office, he said. The space now occupied for administrative offices on the first floor of the Watts Hall could be sold as business spaces resembling condominiums, along with the storefront now leased and the Main Street police station.

The upstairs of Watts Hall could remain for community use, Blastow said.

The idea of the condos includes having the owners share in the exterior maintenance of the historic building, he said.

Because the state has yet to decide on ownership of the prison property, Blastow said it is premature to look into the cost of making the proposed changes.

On Tuesday, Clark, of the state Bureau of General Services, said she had no sense of when a decision would be made on ownership of the property. “It’s on hold for now,” she said. “We’re focusing on the demolition.”

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