AUBURN — Fees charged to towns for emergency dispatching services are going up in Androscoggin County, but county commissioners, Sheriff Eric Samson and County Administrator Larry Post could not agree Wednesday how much.

The fees pay for dispatch emergency services for police, fire and ambulance services through 911 calls 24 hours a day. Towns sign three-year contracts for the service.

With the exception of Auburn, Lewiston and Lisbon, all communities in Androscoggin County utilize the county’s communication and dispatch services for some or all of their emergency needs.

The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department is one of 24 public service answering points responsible for receiving 911 calls 24 hours a day.

Samson and Post recommended a 5% increase in the fees charged per year over the next three years, but some commissioners felt that increase was inadequate.

Commissioner Roland Poirier of Lewiston pointed out that the 5% increase would only raise and additional $24,000 over the course of the contract.

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“My concern is we’re looking at an operation that will increase by a lot more than $24,000 over the next three years,” Poirier said.

The current rate is $2.55 per resident. The population numbers will change due to the new census.

The fees bring about $300,000 for operating of the dispatch center, Samson said. The total cost of the center, including labor, is roughly $1 million. The remainder is paid through part of the county tax.

As an alternative, Samson suggested raising rates by a flat 25 cents per person per year instead using a percentage, believing that a 25-cent increase sounds less daunting than a 10% increase.

If approved, the rate would rise to $2.80 the first year.

Commissioners postponed taking action until the next meeting and asked Post for a breakdown between 5%, 7% and 10% increases.

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In other business, commissioners approved several projects using American Rescue Plan Act funds. Those include $151,000 for heating controls in the jail, $50,000 for ductwork cleaning, $5,000 for COVID- 19 testing, $43,000 for a grant assistant in the treasurer’s office for the next two years and $171,380 for one Ford F-150 Responder and four Ford Police Interceptor SUVs for the Sheriff’s Office from Quirk Auto.

The board also set aside $10 million of the $21 million in federal relief funds for loss of revenue from the pandemic, a designation with fewer restrictions.

Community Little Theatre of Auburn gave a presentation on its plans to upgrade its facility on Academy Street, asking for $3 million from the federal allotment from the county toward its $4.7 million project. Eight other organizations have asked for funds, ranging from $10,000 to two requests for $3 million. The board is not expected to make any decisions on funding these groups until April at the earliest.

Former Sen. Garrett Mason of Lisbon was sworn in as the new District 4 commissioner, representing Lisbon, Sabattus and Wales. Mason replaces Isaiah Lary, who resigned late last year.


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