The Androscoggin County Commission has come under fire once again by the editorial staff of the Sun Journal and I feel it is time for the public to be aware of the facts.

In the Jan. 23 editorial, there was a “Jeer” to the commissioners for the outcome of our budget process.

To be in a position to criticize, readers should expect that news staff would have covered the budget process.

I would like to state publicly that the Sun Journal staff did not attend one single budget presentation which ran from mid-November and concluded Jan. 13. The meetings were long, the discussions were detailed and the Budget Committee did a great job with a budget that was finally ratified by the commissioners on Jan. 20.

I would like to highlight several important issues for this budget.

Dispatch service for the county has been a highlight and still is one of the top priorities for the commissioners.

With the closing of the Livermore Falls dispatch center and the burdensome state mandates on the Public Safety Answering Point services now in effect, the addition of two full-time dispatchers was needed to effectively handle calls and was approved for this ensuing year.

It is important to note we have engaged volunteer assistance from a committee of local police and fire chiefs to assess equipment needs, staffing levels, call volumes and a governance structure to best suit the needs of the users of this service in the future.

This process has been guided by Chief Brooks of the Lisbon Police Department, and this committee is working diligently on a solution for the immediate future. I am optimistic this process will have a better end result than previous study committees.

The two additional positions added for the sheriff’s department are part of a pilot program requested by the sheriff, intended to retain revenue from our civil process division and, in turn, assist in funding the overall department.

After a full year of operation, the commissioners will review the outcome and determine if it was successful and, if not, make appropriate changes.

This change should actually generate a positive cash flow and allow the county to retain revenues generated within the department. The numbers presented show it is the best possible option and I, having a background in business, feel it makes good financial sense and our Budget Committee agreed.

The building study is much more than a health and safety study of the basement. We are working with the Androscoggin Valley Council of Government and are re-developing a building committee to evaluate our building’s major systems, structure, space needs, and map out the future of this historic building.

Previous studies had been done, but never implemented, and we plan to use much of that data.

Administrations prior to ours at Androscoggin County have not placed importance on maintaining the structure and I believe that to be irresponsible management. In fact, the last several audits of our finances pointed to a major deficiency in capital planning, or lack thereof, to maintain our most significant county asset, the building.

I was entrusted with management responsibilities with my election and am committed to maintaining and preserving the building as part of that.

Making up for the decades of insufficient maintenance and limited investment will be a challenge that will require creativity. To that end, I am disappointed again that the Sun Journal has not reported that Androscoggin County was awarded nearly $190,000 in a federal energy efficiency grant which will allow us to invest non-property tax dollars in building modernization and efficiencies.

The importance of a plan is essential when managing how those dollars are to be spent.

It is responsible management to develop a plan first and not just spend money because you have it. Quite often, money spent in haste is just wasted money. I will ensure there is no wasted money.

I have been elected and it is my duty to manage county government and those interested in learning more about the work of Androscoggin County, wanting to get involved or offer feedback, should feel free to contact me.

The current model for Androscoggin County is imperfect, and I recognize that. Part of the remedy could be a Charter Commission, something we have budgeted for and the Sun Journal has suggested in previous editorials.

Hopefully, going forward, criticism of the county will be based on facts and analysis gathered by covering our meetings and not empty statements that advance misperceptions.

Randall Greenwood is chairman of the Androscoggin County Commission. He lives in Wales.

Editor’s note: The Sun Journal did not send a representative to each Budget Committee meeting but did have access to the paperwork presented and discussed at these meetings and spoken individually with members of that committee during the process.

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