The Maine Military Authority laid off 35 workers at its Limestone facility this week as it attempts to renegotiate terms of a $19 million contract to refurbish commuter buses owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.

Hugh Corbett, director of the authority, a quasi-state government agency, said the layoffs took effect Wednesday.

Though the workers are free to seek other jobs, Corbett said he believes he will be able to negotiate changes to the bus contract and restore their positions.

Corbett said he met with the affected workers and told them they might soon be rehired. The Maine Department of Labor’s Rapid Response Team also met with workers Thursday.

“I told them. Don’t lose the faith. There could be a short turnaround,” Corbett said Thursday evening in a telephone interview. “I truly am confident that we can reach a solution with (the MBTA).”

Corbett announced the layoffs Wednesday in a one-page news release that said “discussions to resolve a budget shortfall for the Dual Mode Articulated Bus Midlife Overhaul Program” were ongoing and that an agreement has not yet been reached. Corbett described the discussions as “constructive and positive.”


Maine Gov. Paul LePage halted work under the $19 million contract in September because the workload was greater than anticipated, making the contract unprofitable. LePage said the agency underbid the contract. The governor has not commented since and attempts to reach his spokespeople Thursday were unsuccessful.

However, Corbett said he has been meeting in Boston with MBTA officials with the goal of resolving monetary issues in the contract. He declined to say how much more money would be needed to complete the contracted work or whether the scope of work could be adjusted so the $19 million would cover it.

The contract calls for the authority to refurbish 32 articulated, commuter buses. To date, work has been completed on only 11 buses and partially completed on the others. Articulated buses are longer than typical buses, with a flexible joint in the middle that allows them to get around tight city corners.

Brigadier General Douglas Farnham, the adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, oversees the Maine Military Authority – a business set up by the state to boost employment at the former Loring Air Force Base in northern Maine. The base is now called the Loring Commerce Center.

Farnham told the Press Herald earlier this month that the MBTA has agreed to discuss changes in the contract, although it’s not clear whether the Massachusetts agency would agree to cover higher than expected costs. Farnham said the contract calls for the buses to be completely refurbished, with new interiors and overhauled engines and transmissions.

Attempts to reach a spokesman for the MBTA were unsuccessful Thursday, but Corbett said the MBTA “has gone on the record” as saying that the buses that have been refurbished are the best product they have ever seen.


Corbett said work on the buses was far more complicated than anticipated.

The Maine State Employees Associations represents the laid off workers. On Thursday, Executive Director Rod Hiltz questioned the authority’s decision to lay off workers.

Hiltz said it was unfair for Corbett to ask workers to hold off looking for new jobs.

“I’ve been laid off before and when you get laid off, your number one issue is where is your next paycheck going to come from,” he said. “You should have kept them working if you really wanted them to stay.”

The authority got its start refurbishing military Humvees, but in 2013 it was forced to lay off 140 employees. It employed more than 500 workers at its peak, but scaled back as troops were withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan.

This week’s layoffs reduced the authority’s Limestone workforce from 62 workers to 27.

“The jobs are critically important particularly in that area (Aroostook County) of the state,” Hiltz said. They are highly skilled workers with decades of experience. They are great workers because they can fix anything.”


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