AUGUSTA — A former bank across the street from the State House is scheduled for demolition – one year after the state spent $271,000 to acquire and renovate it for a now-defunct state agency.

The LePage administration says the former Bangor Savings Bank building – a single-story structure located at 77 Capitol St. – will be torn down this week by a contractor.

While the final plans are subject to approval by the Augusta Planning Board, the LePage administration plans to create additional parking just across the street from the State House, the Blaine House and a parking garage that periodically fills up when the Legislature is in session.

David Heidrich, spokesman for the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which manages state-owned buildings in the Augusta area, said the property “holds strategic value” to the state because of its location.

“Our plan has always been to tear it down because the parcel’s size and location holds more value as parking than housing a small office,” Heidrich said. “As you know from working on this campus, there are a significant number of days during the legislative session where the garage fills up and parking is at a premium. The long-term plan for that property is not as a parking lot, but it will be important given that the current parking garage will likely need to be removed and completely replaced within the next 10 years.”

The state purchased the building last summer for $250,000 from Gov. Paul LePage’s “contingency account,” which is normally used for emergencies but can be tapped for real estate or other purposes. Bangor Savings, which had built two larger and more modern buildings elsewhere in Augusta in recent years, was initially asking $375,000 for the building and half-acre lot but accepted the state’s offer of $250,000. The state had long held the right of first refusal on the property.

The administration then spent $21,000 to renovate the building to house the governor’s Office of Policy and Management, a small agency created by LePage and the Legislature in 2012 after he dismantled the State Planning Office early in his first term. At its peak, the Office of Policy and Management employed seven people tasked with producing reports and policy analyses for the governor as well as assisting with creation of a two-year state budget.

Abandoned files in the former Office of Policy Management building in Augusta on Wednesday August 1, 2018. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

OPM had shrunk by the time it moved into the former bank building as employees left and responsibilities were transferred to other agencies. The office’s director since 2014, former Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte, quietly resigned from LePage’s Cabinet in April without any announcement or statements from the governor’s office. That left just one person on the OPM payroll and that staffer was reassigned to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

“In short, operationally, all OPM and former state planning office duties and responsibilities and staff have been integrated back into state agencies so the functions are integrated into the agency work,” LePage spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz wrote in an email.

 

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