August 10, 2011

Brunswick-Topsham military commissary to close

By Trevor Maxwell tmaxwell@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

BRUNSWICK — The Defense Department has announced the closure of the Brunswick-Topsham commissary, despite efforts by Maine's congressional delegates to save the facility that provides groceries and other items to military families at reduced prices.

The commissary is scheduled to close Oct. 8.

The Defense Department has targeted the facility for closure since 2007, in conjunction with the gradual closure of the Brunswick Naval Air Station.

But Maine's delegates have put pressure on defense officials to keep the commissary open. They argue that although the number of military families in the area has dropped because of the base closure, the commissary still serves a critical need for guardsmen, reservists, active-duty and retired service members living in Maine. Those families save thousands of dollars a year by shopping at the commissary.

"This is extremely disappointing news for the servicemen and women, military retirees and families who live in the Brunswick-Topsham region," Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said Tuesday night in a joint statement issue by the delegates. "That these patriots must lose a key resource in their community during these difficult economic times is ill-informed and inexcusable."

Snowe said she and Maine's other delegates had sent three letters to defense officials since May, promoting ways to keep the commissary open. One idea was to allow the sale of alcohol and tobacco at the commissary, which would boost profits. Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, did not respond to the delegation's efforts.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she spoke with Stanley on Tuesday.

"I told him that I am disappointed with this decision," Collins said in the statement.  "It is unacceptable that the Defense Department reached this decision without responding to our earlier inquiries and our repeated attempts to urge the department to pursue alternatives that would preserve the Commissary."

Snowe and Collins, along with Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, said they will fight the closure decision.

"This decision directly impacts the lives of thousands of Mainers and needs to be reversed. Those who have served their country don't deserve to have the rug pulled out from under them like this, especially at a time our economy continues to struggle," Michaud said.  "I'm hopeful that the Department of Defense reconsiders this flawed decision and gives it the thorough review it clearly deserves."

"There is a clear need for commissary services in the Midcoast area and it is a benefit that we owe military personnel and retirees," Pingree said.

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