WESLEY (NEWS CENTER Maine) – Just days away from the deadline many people in Washington County feared, the debate over whether or not the Downeast Correctional Facility is gone for good still rages on.
"I've always said the Downeast Correctional Facility will open up again," said Kevin Millay.
Millay, a retired prison employee and a self-made spokesperson of sorts, said he has not given up hope that the shuttered facility in Machiasport will reopen.
June 30 marks the official closing of the facility if funding is not extended, but it has been closed for months after Governor Paul LePage abruptly shut down it down in February.
The move sparked outrage in the region leaving more than 50 employees without jobs and transferring over 100 prisoners to other facilities in the state.
"They've been forced to move out of town, out of state, and are going on unemployment, lose their health insurance on an illegal move," Millay said.
State legislators just passed a controversial $5.5 million bill last week to extend funding to the facility for another year.
Many in favor of the bill expect Governor LePage to veto it. The Governor’s office would not comment on how he will act. A spokesperson told NEWS CENTER Maine, "The Governor has ten days to veto, sign or let a bill pass into law without signature."
Legislators who have been fighting for the prison for years, said they would continue to fight and override a veto, calling this their final chance.
"There is still a glimmer of hope," State Representative William Tuell said. "I would hope that the legislature would realize that we have one more chance to fund the prison and keep it open."
Millay said he does not expect this administration to take advantage of this chance. He said he hopes candidates Janet Mills or Shawn Moody will act in their favor once LePage leaves office.
"You can't walk away from something that doesn't make sense," Millay said.
NEWS CENTER Maine reached out to both gubernatorial campaigns.
A spokesperson for Republican candidate Shawn Moody said in part:
"As Maine’s next Governor, Shawn will do whatever is possible to support not only the economy in Washington County but all rural parts of Maine to protect and grow jobs."
A spokesperson for Democratic candidate Janet Mills’ campaign said Mills has been completely against the closure, calling LePage's actions "illegal and unnecessary."