AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Budget Committee took $100,000 out of reserves Wednesday to purpose a body scanner for the Androscoggin County Jail.

The issue came up when committee member Kiernan Majerus-Collins of Lewiston asked Sheriff Eric Samson what changes the jail had made in response to a death of an inmate at the jail earlier this year. Samson said his staff had considered a body scanner, which would detect weapons, drugs and other foreign items in the body upon booking.

Due to the cost and the desire of municipalities that the county minimize any tax increase, he did not include the scanner in the jail budget, but thought it could be done next year.

Samson added that only two or three jails in the state have a body scanner.

Majerus-Collins proposed adding $100,000 to the jail budget to purchase a body scanner, but that proposal failed 3-10, with Majerus-Collins, Larry Pelletier of Auburn and Chairwoman Alicia Rea of Lewiston voting yes.

After that vote, commissioners realized that a large sum was available in the jail reserve account. A vote to take the money from reserves past unanimously.

Since the funding is coming out of reserves, the action will have zero impact on the county budget.

During the third and final meeting to review the 2020-21 fiscal year budget for the county, the committee made no changes to the sheriff’s budget, covering patrol, communications, civil process, death benefits and the jail. Committee members Phillip Crowell and Andrew Titus, both of Auburn, told Samson and county Administrator Larry Post to get a better handle on the exact costs for patrol services for the various towns and encourage more to contract for policing such as Poland has done.

Emergency Management Agency Director Angela Molino pleaded with the commissioners to restore some of the $19,000 that was cut by the county commissioners. Her biggest concern was on the printing and reproducing line, which commissioners cut from $2,411 to $1,300. The $1,300 would barely cover the cost of leasing the photocopier, but not the printer nor the cost of the photocopies. The committee restored funding to $2,411 by a 12-1 vote.

The panel also added $180 back for electricity, cutting a similar amount from the repairing automobiles line by an 11-2 vote. It also supported restoring funds to office supplies, telephone and adding back the purchase of two laptops since two of the four employees do not have laptops, but all three of those votes failed to receive the supermajority of 11 votes and will be forwarded to the commissioners as a recommendation.

Molino did agree to forego purchasing a truck, which commissioners had earlier cut.

The committee spent considerable debating whether to cut $9,000 from the consulting line in the information technology budget. Vice Chairman Allen Ward of Lisbon moved to cut that amount because he didn’t believe the IT director could complete all of the ambitious projects he hopes to accomplish next year to build firewalls and other protections to the system. Most of the committee members thought it was wise to cut funding with all the lurking online dangers out there. Wards’s motion failed by a 4-9 decision.

With the Budget Committee’s work done, a public hearing will be held Oct. 21. The budget then returns to the commissioners, when they are expected to give their final approval Nov. 4.

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