The Maine Military Authority, a state-owned operation in Limestone that specializes in refurbishing vehicles, underbid a $19 million contract, putting at risk as many as 50 jobs and raising the possibility that losses could be passed on to taxpayers, Gov. Paul LePage said late Friday.

LePage provided few details, but said he recently learned that the MMA underestimated how much it would cost to refurbish 32 articulated buses under its contract with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.

LePage said more information on the problems with the contract would be coming and Brig. Gen. Douglas A. Farnham, the adjutant general of the Maine National Guard and commissioner of the state Department of Defense, suggested in LePage’s news release that state would try to renegotiate the contract, although it’s not clear what incentive the Boston-area transit authority would have to pay more for the work.

“The MMA has not notified the MBTA of any action related to the contract,” Jeo Pesaturo, a spokesman for the MBTA said by email Friday night.

Susan Faloon, a spokeswoman with the Maine Emergency Management Agency, which is also part of the Department of Defense, said she didn’t have any details on how much the project was expected to cost or how much the contract had been underbid. She said state officials are still trying to gather figures.

Faloon said work on the contract started in 2014. Articulated buses are longer than typical buses, with a joint in the middle, often covered by a rubber pleat, that allows the vehicles to get around tight city corners.

She said the work involves a top-to-bottom refurbishing of the buses and it became clear on the first one that it would cost more than officials had expected. She said about one-third of the buses are done and work is continuing on others that are in Limestone.

“Lately, (MMA officials) came to the realization that they weren’t going to be able to reduce costs as much as they thought,” Faloon said.

The Maine Military Authority was created after Loring Air Force Base – once one of the largest bases for the Strategic Air Command – was ordered to be shut down in a round of military base closings in 1991. The state created the Loring Commerce Center two years later and leased parts of the base to businesses, including call centers and light manufacturing operations. The state also created MMA to pursue work on vehicles and its biggest contract was to refurbish Humvees for the Army.

The authority had 500 workers at its peak, Faloon said.

But the work has dwindled, she said, and only about 50 people work in the Limestone facility now. She said most of the workers are refurbishing the MBTA buses and a few are working on small contracts to refurbish school buses.

“At one point, this facility was making money and the goal is to make that happen again,” Faloon said.

Faloon believes the contract was negotiated when Brig. Gen. James D. Campbell was the state’s adjutant general, although she doesn’t know if he played a role in developing the terms. LePage fired Campbell in March 2015 after he and the governor clashed over plans to convert a Maine National Guard engineering battalion to an infantry unit.

Faloon said Farnham was not available Friday night. An email seeking comment and more details from the governor’s office was not answered. The governor has not spoken with the Press Herald since vowing Aug. 31 to never speak to the media again.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6564 or at:

[email protected]

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