The 1857 Androscoggin County Courthouse complex includes the main entrance to the courthouse, far left, the entrance to the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department, left, and the more recent, multistory jail addition, far right. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — Androscoggin County is slated to receive $21 million from the federal government from the recently passed COVID-19 relief bill, according to Commissioner Noel Madore of Lewiston.

The funds are earmarked for the county and are separate from money expected to arrive for cities and towns. Androscoggin County is expected to receive $10.5 million in May and the other in 2022. The county has until 2024 to spend the money, Madore said.

To put the $21 million into context, the entire Androscoggin County budget for this year pales in comparison at $15.8 million.

Since he received word of the award, Madore has given a lot of thought and discussed with others what to do with the huge windfall. The opportunities are endless. He plans on discussing some of his ideas at Wednesday’s county commission meeting at the county courthouse in Auburn.

“I think everything is on the table,” Madore said. “We have some big questions in front of us.”

There are some restrictions that will come with the funds, Madore said. For example, the money cannot be used to offset spending.

Madore believes the county should divide the money into an 80/20 split, with 20% going toward community needs and 80% for use at the county building.

For the community, Madore would like to see the money used to decrease the number of incarcerations in the county by building a countywide homeless shelter.

A no-brainer for part of the county government’s share would be to complete the deferred maintenance that has plagued the tired and old county structure, built in 1857. Funds could also be used to renovate the basement areas, the jails to minimize overcrowding or even possibly construct a new facility.

Madore would like to see coordination with communities and other counties, perhaps sharing the cost for a grant administrator to help guide them in the process.

“We need professional assistance in planning and coordinating,” Madore said.

Madore would like to see the board draft a mission statement on an agreed money split and to provide guidance on the use of the funds.

County Administrator Larry Post was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

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