The commissary in Topsham and the Navy Exchange store at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station have been given a reprieve.

The stores, which serve thousands of retired and active military personnel throughout Maine, were scheduled to be shut down in March by the Department of Defense.

But Maine’s congressional delegation announced Wednesday that it had succeeded in getting a provision into the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2011 that will keep both stores open through at least September.

The defense spending bill was approved Wednesday by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

Maine’s U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, applauded the measure, saying it creates more time to convince Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that the stores should remain open permanently.

“The Topsham commissary and Brunswick exchange are not only an important benefit for the active duty military personnel who are stationed in Maine’s midcoast region, but also the many other patriots, including retirees, Guardsmen and reservists, and the many families who have rightfully earned the benefit these stores provide for their service and sacrifice,” Snowe said in a prepared statement.

“These brave men and women have earned commissary and exchange benefits that should not be denied by the end of military operations at Brunswick Naval Air Station,” Collins said.

In January 2007, the Navy announced that the commissary, which opened in Topsham in 1974, was surplus property and would have to be closed.

The commissary sells food and other goods to military personnel and their families at significantly reduced prices.

The Navy Exchange is similar to a department store. It is on the former Navy base in Brunswick.

Three years ago, commissary officials estimated that closing the commissary would affect 38,000 military identification card holders who live within 50 miles of Topsham. At the time, about 15,000 people a week were shopping at the store, the officials said.

Maine’s congressional delegation said the legislation requires that use of the stores be evaluated by the comptroller general before any final decisions are made on whether they should remain open.

“We owe active duty and retired personnel access to a commissary and exchange, and the entire Maine delegation is going to keep fighting to keep those services available in the Brunswick area,” Pingree said.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be reached at 791-6365 or at:

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