AUBURN — This week’s Androscoggin County Commission meeting will be closed to in-person visitors.

The public can watch Wednesday’s meeting, which starts at 5:15 p.m., and participate by Zoom.

The decision was made due to the county’s small meeting room and social distancing concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a meeting last month, more than 30 spectators crowded into the room to discuss an anti-mask resolution. While several were convinced to watch the proceedings on video in a separate room, many slowly returned to the room during the meeting.

According to a statement released by the county,  “Since commissioners and required staff will meet the (individuals per square foot) limit for the COVID physical distancing restrictions, this commissioners’ meeting will only be available to the public through Zoom.”

Only commissioners and required staff will be allowed into the meeting room.

Last month, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey sent a letter to the county informing the seven commissioners they must follow the mask mandate or face legal consequences.

“I am writing to advise you that pursuant to an executive order, the commissioners are legally obligated to require that all persons attending public meetings, including the commissioners themselves, wear face coverings,” Frey wrote. “Beyond the legal obligation, the use of face coverings is critical to protecting the public health and deterring further spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.”

Commissioners, who met virtually at their most recent meeting, defeated an anti-mask resolution offered by Commissioner Isaiah Lary by a 6-1 vote.

The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting includes the proposal requested by county employees and already tabled twice, to update safety guidelines during the pandemic and require visitors to wear masks in the county building in publicly accessible areas, which is mandated by Gov. Janet Mills’ executive order on face coverings. That measure was debated for more than two hours before its was tabled.

Also on the agenda is a request by Sheriff Eric Samson to accept a bid to purchase ammunition and a request an increase in pay for reserve officers.

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