Maine Gov. Paul LePage had a pointed message Monday for those who might still criticize the state for closing Department of Health and Human Services offices in Portland and building new offices in South Portland, near the Portland International Jetport.

“Get over it,” LePage said. “For $23 million, taking the bus wouldn’t hurt anybody.”

Maine taxpayers will save $23 million over the 30-year lease, compared with lease rates it would have paid for DHHS offices on Marginal Way in Portland, according to state officials.

Critics have said that moving DHHS offices from Portland to the more remote location makes it harder for those who are most likely to need services – including food stamps and General Assistance benefits – to get to the building. But LePage and others say that the South Portland location is convenient, that there are many recipients who live outside of Portland, and that Metro buses will stop there.

LePage attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday for the $9.8 million, 75,000-square-foot building, with state officials and contractors on hand to celebrate the building’s completion. State workers will move in within the next few weeks.

The new DHHS offices will share the building with Maine Department of Labor offices, a point highlighted by LePage and other state officials.

Those receiving DHHS services can go to job counseling or get other job services in the same building.

“We know the best way out of poverty is a job,” said Jeanne Paquette, Maine’s labor commissioner.

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