AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Budget Committee wants to be involved in how the county spends its federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Allen Ward of Lisbon, who was reelected Wednesday as vice chairman of the Budget Committee, told County Administrator Larry Post that the committee should at least have an advisory role on how the county will spend the more than $22 million it is scheduled to receive.

The committee will review planned spending of the federal money Sept. 29 when it considers the capital improvement plan. Any of those projects that are funded with the money would eliminate the need for bonds or hitting taxpayers with a major increase in expenditures.

The county has already earmarked more than $640,000 of the federal funds, including paying full-time county employees an extra $5,000 of premium pay for working at the office during the pandemic. Part-time employees will get paid a prorated bonus if they had worked more than 400 hours.

Andrew Titus of Auburn complained that the county was spending money for no other reason than the commissioners had the money to spend.

“Five thousand dollars per employee seems like a lot of money,” Titus said.


The Budget Committee balked when the payment was first approved in early August because it included two elected officials — Sheriff Eric Samson and Register of Probate Thomas Reynolds —  and pay increases for elected officials must be approved by the Budget Committee, according to the County Charter. The county gave bonuses to all employees except the two elected officials.

Ward proposed paying Samson and Reynolds the premium pay that the other county employees received, but Titus said he would oppose the measure because he was unable to vote against the bonuses already paid to employees.

“What’s done is done,” Ward said. “I’m trying to make it whole for the other two employees.”

The committee supported the proposal to award premium pay to elected officials by a 7-3-1 vote, with Titus, Tony Reny of Greene and Kevin Nichols of Turner voting no and Auburn City Manager Phillip Crowell abstaining.

Voting in favor were Chairwoman Alicia Rea of Lewiston, Michael Stephanak of Greene, Ward and Mark Lunt, both of Lisbon, Leroy Walker and Larry Pelletier, both of Auburn, and new member Lisa Cesare of Minot.

After reelecting Rea and Ward as committee chairwoman and vice chairman, respectively, the board heard a brief overview of the $16.1 million county budget for 2021-22 from Post.

“We have a good handle on expenditures, but revenues are down,” Post said.

So much, in fact, that the proposed revenues are down by nearly a million dollars since reserves have been depleted and the fund balance is providing only $100,000 to reduce taxes instead of last year’s $380,000.

The 14-member Budget Committee has two openings, both for the city of Lewiston.

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