AUGUSTA — A group is looking to build a substance abuse treatment facility for veterans on land it hopes to obtain that is now part of the state’s east side campus adjacent to the historic but vacant Kennebec Arsenal property.

Plans for that development will go before Augusta city councilors on Thursday.

The group, according to Mayor David Rollins, includes a representative of the Parnell Group, a nonprofit that Rollins said runs a substance abuse treatment facility for veterans in North Carolina, and Tom Niemann, owner and would-be developer of the arsenal property. Representatives of Maine Veterans’ Homes and VA Maine Healthcare System-Togus might be involved in the potential project as well.

Rollins said the Augusta City Council doesn’t have any jurisdiction over what the group might do, adding that the group is coming to present the idea to the city as “an exploratory conversation.”

The proposal would rely on the group acquiring a parcel of land on the state’s east side campus, the former grounds of the Augusta Mental Health Institute, that it is considering for the proposed facility. The land is where the state has four vacant buildings it plans to demolish because they aren’t being used and have fallen into disrepair.

Legislation passed in 2014 allowing the state to sell or give the land to a nonprofit group to use it for transitional housing for homeless veterans, though that proposed use never materialized and the property has been vacant since then. That legislation was sponsored by Corey Wilson, who at the time was a state representative for Augusta. Wilson no longer is in the Legislature, but he is an at-large city councilor in Augusta.

This year Rep. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, sponsored a resolve to amend that legislation to allow the property to be sold to a nonprofit group restricted to using it for either transitional housing or substance abuse treatment for veterans.

The amended bill was approved Jan. 29 by the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee with a unanimous “ought to pass” recommendation.

Pouliot said Tuesday the bill has been tabled but it might go to the House for consideration next week.

Rollins said Niemann, who, like the Parnell Group, is based in North Carolina, introduced Dennis Parnell, of the Parnell Group, to the idea of potentially starting a substance abuse treatment facility for veterans on the Augusta site, which abuts the arsenal property Niemann purchased from the state in 2007.

Niemann has faced criticism from state and city officials over the past several years for failing to redevelopthe arsenal property.

City Manager William Bridgeo said no city staff members have been involved directly in the group’s discussions about the possible creation of a substance abuse treatment facility in Augusta.

Rollins said that longer-term, one idea of the group members is that veterans who are treated successfully at the facility could help provide a workforce to work in a hotel or restaurant Niemann eventually could develop on the arsenal property.

Councilors are scheduled to hear a presentation on the group’s proposal at their 6:30 p.m. meeting Thursday in the council chamber at Augusta City Center.

Councilors also are scheduled to discuss whether the city should accept either of two competing proposals from people who responded to a request for proposals the city put out, seeking someone to purchase and redevelop property the city acquired at 115 and 117 Bridge St.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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