Mid-Coast veterans may have a home base again
BRUNSWICK — A group of Mid-Coast veterans may have found a home after they lost one on Brunswick's former naval air base, and the scenery will be familiar to the locals who served.
The sale of Brunswick Landing property to the Mid-Coast Veterans Council was one of many agreements approved at a Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority board meeting Tuesday morning.
Sales were also approved to Village Green Ventures, a "waste-to-energy" company; Seeds of Independence, a program for at-risk youth; and Priority Group, a Topsham developer that plans to start a school for children with autism and developmental disabilities.
Some of the agreements were made possible by a recent subdivision plan that was passed by the Planning Board, said Steve Levesque, MRRA's executive director.
Roger Dumont, the Mid-Coast Veterans Council's president, said Wednesday the building, at 60 Forrestal Ave. on Brunswick Landing, will serve as a resource center for mid-coast veterans and a meeting space for local veteran groups.
"We're going to eventually utilize the building to have (information) counseling," Dumont said. "We're trying to be a conduit for veterans to come in and receive information. It's something as simple as this – if they need a ride to the (Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta) and they don't know their benefits, we'll help them."
If the sale is completed, Dumont said, MRRA will hold the building's $100,000 mortgage, and the council would only have to pay for utilities and a small percentage of annual costs to meet tax requirements.
Dumont said it would have been "impossible" for the council to lease or pay for the building, and Levesque said the redevelopment authority wanted to make the space affordable for the veterans.
"It will make for a nice little veterans' center," Levesque said. "... (The agreement) is designed to make it affordable for them."
Dumont said the building will serve as a meeting place for the local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts. He said the building will also provide office space for the Retired Activities Office, a volunteer organization that used to have space on the base before it closed.
Paul Loveless, RAO's director, said he's currently working out of his home to help retired veterans learn about their government benefits.
"Right now if I have to meet with clients, I have to do it at their home or at Tim Horton's (coffee shop)," Loveless said, "and we really need a private place to discuss matters. We need to help them figure out their finances, which is particularly important for surviving spouses of veterans."
In addition, Loveless said he currently doesn't have enough room for all of his files or computers that veterans could use for research.
"We have a number of reference material in storage that we have no room for and it helps us in our day-to-day work," Loveless said.
Dumont said he and other veterans formed the Mid-Coast Veterans Council last year because they lost a central meeting place when the former naval air base closed.
"We have a lot of veterans who were just left behind," Dumont said. "... It's just what happens. When the base closed, we were out of options."
A business plan is currently being drafted for the veterans center, Dumont said, and he plans to apply for grants and hold fundraisers, including a golf tournament scheduled for September.
"We're just going to try to make things work for us," Dumont said.