Military commissary at Topsham Annex has limited shelf-life

0

TOPSHAM (AP) – Active-duty and retired military families stand to lose out on bargain food prices and a part of the social fabric of military life when the commissary at the Topsham Annex to the Brunswick Naval Air Station shuts its doors.

Closing the store would affect thousands of military families who live within 50 miles of Topsham and take advantage of the 30 percent savings the commissary can offer on a cart of groceries.

About 15,000 people shop at the commissary each week, according to manager Paul St. Pierre. Sixty percent are retired military personnel or their dependents, 33 percent are active duty and the remaining 7 percent are National Guard members.

For now, the commissary and the rest of the annex are slated for closure by September 2011.

It could occur sooner, depending on when the squadrons at Brunswick Naval Air Station are deployed elsewhere.

The base itself also is scheduled to close in 2011.

Hope Durkee, who lives in Damariscotta with her husband, a Navy retiree, said she comes to the commissary at least once a week.

“If it closes, there is not much I can do,” she said. “Prices at the local supermarkets are three to four times higher than they are here. It is one of the few benefits retirees get that have not been taken away by the Bush administration.”

The Department of Defense this month declared the 74-acre annex to be surplus property, a step in the closing and redevelopment of the Brunswick Naval Air Station. Besides the commissary, which opened in 1974, the annex includes housing units, a training facility, office space and a fire station.

The Defense Commissary Agency, a branch of the Department of Defense, operates 263 military commissaries around the world. Closing the Topsham store would leave the nearest commissaries in Bangor and Portsmouth, N.H.

Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine said they won’t let the area lose its commissary without a fight.

“At a minimum, knowing that the only other commissary in Maine is located in Bangor, we will push the Defense Commissary Agency to retain a presence in the midcoast region so that active and retired military personnel can continue to enjoy the benefits they have so valiantly earned,” the senators said in a statement.

Maj. Gen. Bill Libby, Maine’s adjutant general, has received preliminary approval to develop an armed forces reserve center on 51 acres of land at the air station.

Libby would like to build a new commissary on land adjacent to the base’s Navy Exchange, pharmacy and medical clinic. Consolidating those services in one location would better serve the retirees who drive long distances to reach the midcoast, he said.

“We have a huge contingent of retirees and active duty personnel assigned to the ships being constructed at Bath Iron Works,” Libby said. “It makes sense to have all our retirees going to one place. My vision is that when everything is said and done, we will have a commissary that serves this area.”



Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com

Advertisement
SHARE