AUBURN — The restoration of the clock tower on the Androscoggin County Courthouse will be delayed after the lone bid for the project came in well over budget.

County commissioners Monday unanimously rejected the $296,300 bid by H.E. Callahan Construction to restore the clock tower. Originally budgeting $100,000 for the project, the county had less than $75,000 available after spending money for architectural work.

The problem is that the exterior of the tower is in such poor condition that it could start crumbling if repairs are put off for another year.

“The exterior does need some immediate attention, so we hate to wait and to put it into another season,” County Administrator Larry Post said.

Commissioners agreed with Alfreda Fournier’s suggestion to prioritize the parts of the restoration plan and to seek bids on just those projects. The exterior of the tower would likely top the list. Commission Chairman Ronald Chicoine thought limiting the bids to the exterior would increase the chances for more contractors to bid on the project.

Another c0ncern, according to Treasurer Robert Poulin, is the potential for water leaking into the courtroom. 

“If it leaks into the courtroom, it will be very, very expensive,” Poulin said.

Commissioners voted 6-0 to reject the H.E. Callahan bid and to quickly ask for bids on a smaller-scale project to repair the exterior of the clock tower.

“We can’t keep deferring capital improvements,” Commissioner Beth Bell said. “I’d like to make this a top priority.”

In other business, commissioners approved $79,069 for the purchase of two vehicles for the county jail. Wiscasset Ford will provide a 2017 Ford Utility Police Interceptor at a cost of $24,637. The amount includes the trade-in of two vehicles for $4,100.

A competing bid by Rowe Auburn offered the car at a slightly lower price, but Wiscasset Ford’s higher trade-in price offset Rowe’s advantage.

Quirk Auto Group of Bangor will provide a 2016 Chevrolet Suburban for $43,477.

The remaining money will pay for lettering, decals and the purchase and installation of emergency equipment.

Randall Greenwood was the lone commissioner absent from the rare Monday afternoon meeting.

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