BANGOR – There’s a psychiatric inmate problem in the state, and Bangor’s representative agrees with the governor that something needs to be done. But the legislature and city council have a number of questions and concerns they don’t believe are being heard.
The state of Maine needs more space to house inmates convicted of crimes but found not mentally fit to serve in a normal prison. The governor has an idea for a new facility, but he has chosen a path that doesn’t sit well with elected leaders of the city he wants to utilize.
The original idea was brought up in the fall of 2016, when Governor LePage first wanted to construct in Augusta, near the Riverview facility from which patients would be sent.
In January, members of the state Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee asked LePage details on the plans and cost of the proposal. In his reply, LePage said those questions had already been answered, or were deemed irrelevant by his decision to move plans from Augusta to Bangor.
State representative Aaron Frey of Bangor tells ABC7/FOX22 the governor made this decision because he needed legislative approval for the state to build a facility; approval the legislature would not give without more details on the plans. However, LePage does not need approval to lease a building that a third party decides to build.
On Tuesday, August 22, the state entered an agreement with Cianbro to lease such a building that the company would construct on a space of land on Hogan Road across from the existing Dorothea Dix psychiatric facility.
“The governor and legislature are having a feud,” council chair Joe Baldacci said. “But the people of Bangor should not have to suffer because of that. We made efforts, through the city manager’s office, to have a conversation with people at the state level to get details about this, and we’ve basically been given the cold shoulder.”
In a response to the appropriations committee, Governor LePage wrote, in part: Bangor provides a central location from which to meet the mental health needs of Mainers… …placing this facility in Bangor allows us to avoid becoming bogged down in a legislative quagmire and gives me assurance that Riverview in on a path to re-accredidation.
The Bangor city council decided on Monday to hold a public forum on the issue sometime in September.
The full letter from Gov. LePage can be seen below.