September 18, 2011

Moscow land up for auction

MOSCOW -- Nearly 1,500 acres and several large buildings, which once held equipment that scanned from Greenland to Cuba for approaching Soviet missiles and planes, will be sold at auction.

The U.S. General Services Administration is scheduled to start the auction online at 10 a.m. on Monday. Information about the sale is posted at realestatesales.gov.

"We hope someone does (buy it) because it's been tax exempt all this time," Moscow Selectman Donald Beane said. "We're just all glad something's going to finally happen."

The U.S. Air Force's Over-the-Horizon-Backscatter radar system was developed in the 1970s, built in the 1980s and shut down in the 1990s. During the Cold War it bounced detection signals off the upper part of the atmosphere to search for enemy aircraft up to 1,800 miles away over the Atlantic Ocean.

The $680 million system consisted of the transmitting site in Moscow, a receiving site in the Washington County town of Cherryfield, and an operations center in Bangor.

The 1,494 acres off Stream Road Extension in Moscow that will be auctioned contain three warehouse-style buildings and one garage-style building, with a total of 43,000-square feet of space.

Each warehouse building is of similar size and layout. They have overhead garage doors, large open bays, office space, storage areas and restrooms, according to the General Services Administration.

The bidding will start at $1, and the highest bidder will win the auction. The closing of the auction will depend on bidding activity, so the date is not yet set, said Patrick Sclafani, a spokesman for the General Services Administration.

The auction website states the government has the right to reject any bid for any reason.

Beane said the federal government has received at least a couple dozen inquiries about the former radar site. The Penobscot Indian Nation examined purchasing the property last year, but a deal never materialized. It was last listed at $860,000.

A phone call to Penobscot Nation Tribal Chief Kirk Francis was not returned.

At Moscow's annual town meeting in March, Peter Vigue, president and chief executive officer of the industrial construction company Cianbro Corporation, based in Pittsfield, spoke to residents about buying the property in order to build a wind farm and pair it with a business.

Cianbro has partnered with Larry Warren, who runs Maine Huts and Trails, to pursue the project, which would benefit a business by providing it with inexpensive, pre-transmitted electricity from the wind turbines.

In an email, Vigue said he could not comment on whether he would bid on the property. Phone calls to Warren, in addition to Cianbro executive Ernie Kilbride, were not returned.

An environmental survey published in February 2007 reported that the former radar site is clear of hazardous substances. Only small quantities of paint and cleaning materials were discovered in the survey, which is required by the U.S. Department of Defense before property can be sold.

Sclafani said more information is availaboe on the invitation for bids, posted to realestatesales.gov. Or they may contact Project Manager John Dugan at john.dugan@gsa.gov or 617-565-5709.

Erin Rhoda -- 612-2368

erhoda@centralmaine.com

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