AUBURN — After more than a month of trying, the employees of Androscoggin County finally have protocols in place to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

County commissioners Wednesday ratified a proposal developed by Chairwoman Sally Christner of Turner and fine-tuned by the county employees’ Safety Committee that provides a prevention, reaction and preparedness plan that addresses employee health and safety. It was first proposed in January.

The vote to adopt the protocols passed 6-1 with only Isaiah Lary of Wales voting no. Voting in favor were Christner, Noel Madore and Roland Poirier, both of Lewiston, John Michael of Auburn, and Terri Kelly of Mechanic Falls.

In fact, every vote during Wednesday’s meeting was 6-1, with Lary the lone dissenter each time, including votes on approving the minutes, paying the county bills and adjournment.

The meeting was closed to in-person visitors, but the public could participate through Zoom. The public, however, was heard but not seen because at the last Zoom meeting, several audience members held up disruptive signs. The decision to not show their faces infuriated Lary, who complained that the public was being shut out.

Only one member of the public spoke during the meeting.

Lary, the only Zoom participant whose face was seen, continued to interrupt and be disruptive throughout the meeting and was rebuked several times by Christner.

The objective of the COVID-19 protocols, asked for by the employees, was “to ensure business continuity and delivery of services to Androscoggin County while demonstrating care for staff health and welfare.” The policy follows Gov. Janet Mills’ mandate enforcing face coverings in publicly accessible places.

“As the landscape changes, we will readdress it,” Thomas Reynolds, Register of Probate and the head of the Safety Committee, said.

Lary, the author of an anti-mask resolution that failed at the last meeting, wondered why the policy was even necessary, again complaining about masks.

Christner said the policy was developed to follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines so employees feel safe in the workplace. “This is not a mask policy,” she said.

Commissioners had heard enough, voted to end debate and passed the policy.

In other business…

In other business, commissioners passed Sheriff Eric Samson’s recommendation to accept the bid from Eagle Point Gun in Thorofare, New Jersey, to provide ammunition for $8,028. With an ammunition shortage, it was the only bid the sheriff received and the shipment could take 300 days.

Samson also requested a pay increase for his reserve officers from $13 an hour to $15. Upon completion of the required training, the pay would increase to $17. The change would be effective May 9.

Reserve officers receive no benefits and work per diem, at least two shifts per month. Samson said the change would easily be absorbed by the budget. He said he is hoping to add up to five reserve officers.

“It’s better to have reserves than to pay our regular staff time-and-a-half,” Samson said.

Lary proposed cutting the increase to $1, but no one seconded the motion.

During comments, Lary suggested the county should charge the state “full retail value” for use of the courtrooms on the second floor of the county building. That received no feedback.

Saying part of the commissioners’ responsibility is the health and safety of the county inmates, Madore wants the the state to prioritize them receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. He didn’t say where on the scale, but said they deserve their own slot somewhere on the list.

Lary wanted to make sure they would not be forced to take the vaccine, but Kelly noted that if they cannot force an inmate to eat, then they could not be forced to get the vaccine.

Madore and County Administrator Larry Post suggested a workshop to discuss the future of the building, potential bond funding to renovate it and fix the myriad of issues in the basement.

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