You may have noticed that the Androscoggin County Commission has not been making headlines in 2017. It is because a new tone of partnership and thoughtfulness is emerging. The county government is here to bring our towns together, not set them apart from each other or to work independently. Great efficiency can be found in these partnerships. Evidence can be found in our most recent successes and the priorities we are setting.

We have just finished our state-of-the-art communications center that can accommodate more towns joining our efforts to improve public safety and service. Our jail performed commendably on the state’s comprehensive review. Virtually no legal bills have amounted. A contract was ratified between the commission and the union without rancor or lawyers. Contracts will no longer be negotiated on years that have past; that practice is not fair to employees or financially appropriate.

Even with a new tone, the same challenges face the county.

The inheritance of the jail and the limitations set by the state restrain our ability to adequately support it. While it passed the minimums set by the state, very clear issues persist. We maintain a population count that is too high, our equipment is old, and our employees are paid too little.

There is great opportunity for our jail to provide more support for our community problems. The drug-use crisis touches all communities, and all cells of the jail. An increase in programs relating to behavioral health care and medical health care opportunities in the jail would have direct improvement in turning the tide of drug use and get ahead of the negative reverberating effects on our schools, the judicial system and our neighborhoods.

One of the most surprising things that I have realized while being on the commission is the amount of neglect of the county building and its finances. The county’s biggest asset is our building at 2 Turner St., and it shows its age. Fortunately, whether or not to fix a roof leaking into the court was not debated in this commission; it will be fixed.


Facing those challenges, the maintenance crew’s work is impressive. With a similarly aged house, I know that I need to have money in the bank to cover, at least in part, a new roof or a new boiler, and so I plan my finances accordingly. The county currently has only 10 percent of the funds needed in the bank for like situations.

For similar reasons, every year the county takes out essentially a pay-day loan, with sometimes as much as $40,000 in interest, to pay the bills in the months before tax money comes in. If we build our reserves, there will be direct savings. Proper maintenance can avoid costly overhauls, and similar tactics can be applied to improve financial well-being.

The new tone can be credited to the efforts of the commission, Sheriff Eric Samson, the presence of the county administrator, jail administrator, Register of Probate Tom Reynolds, to the union and to all of the employees of the county.

Noel Madore is an Androscoggin County commissioner representing downtown Lewiston.

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