Sheriff Eric Samson at his desk in 2021 in the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office in Auburn. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo

AUBURN — Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson will try to convince the county commission Wednesday that it’s time to move his department out of the 157-year-old building on Turner Street. 

He’s got a location all picked out, the purchase has been negotiated and plans are underway for the design of new facilities. 

Now he has to convince the commission it’s time. 

Samson has some strong arguments and plenty of supporters of the move. 

Ever since he took over as sheriff in 2014, Samson has been giving people tours of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office complex on Turner Street: city leaders, police officers from other departments, politicians, news reporters, you name it. Samson has taken dozens on tours and, by and large, they all have the same reaction to the old building. 

Many insist that the building cannot possibly be up to standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Others point out the many difficulties sheriff’s deputies must encounter working in such squalid conditions. 


“Deplorable, appalling, worse-than-described,” the sheriff said. “This is what’s been said. It’s actually embarrassing for us.” 

For years, those who work inside the sheriff’s department complex have had plenty to complain about.  

There’s the giant mold spores creeping up the walls in some areas. There’s the sewage that has come bubbling up through the floor drains; the stains in a patrol room ceiling, the result of bad plumbing in the old, cramped bathrooms above.  

There’s the heat pump that was recently found to be randomly spitting water out just a couple feet away from a $300,000 piece of equipment that controls vital components of the Androscoggin County Sheriff Office’s technological systems.  

There are the floors that slope almost comically and that feel spongy and unsafe in a way that isn’t comical at all. There are toilets on upper floors leaking into patrol rooms below.

There are no training rooms, no locker rooms, and barely any space at all for sheriff’s detectives to conduct interviews.


And that’s just the start of it, Samson said. His tours are rather long. 

There has been talk for decades of the need to move the department to a new location, but it’s a can that’s been kicked down the road time and time again. 

But Samson isn’t giving up so easily. With the support of the county commissioners, he put together a building committee and began looking for a way out. After meeting with that committee, Samson contacted Harriman, an architecture and planning group in Auburn that had completed a study of county needs in 2010. 

Harriman representatives toured the facility at length and used information from the National Chiefs of Police for recommendations as part of the analysis, Samson said. They were able to provide the sheriff with the specifics of what they would need for a new, state-of-the-art facility that would last a long time. 

That was music to the sheriff’s ears. He doesn’t want a quick fix, he insists, but rather a solution that serves the needs of his department and the county for a long time.

“Maybe we get lucky and get 150 years out of the new facility as we have the current,” Samson said. “If done right, I think we can.” 


The search began for a site that would meet the department’s needs. Will Getchell, who conducted the study for Harriman and reported his findings to commissioners in August, concluded that the Sheriff’s Office requires 20,732 square feet to meet its present needs. That figure alone said a lot — the department’s space in the courthouse is less than 9,000 square feet. 

Harriman’s conclusion was that the department should be relocated to a new facility on a different site. And with that, the search began.

“We used Harriman Associates to evaluate available properties — and contacted some property owners whose properties weren’t listed to see if they had an interest in selling, as well,” Samson said. “As part of the property location we determined from the beginning that the jail/correctional facility should be part of the consideration as in the future, we can expect to construct a new facility. This was made clear to the commissioners, building committee and Harriman Associates throughout this process. We may need a jail in two years, 10 years or 50 years, but we required the jail be part of consideration, so a phase 1 and phase 2 approach.” 

During this process, the county received American Rescue Plan Act money and it was determined that the county can use some to address the needs and requirements of the Sheriff’s Office. 

“Thankfully this came about to absorb some of the costs,” Samson said. 

At one time, the commissioners were discussing the possibility of renovations to the building rather than a move to a new site. The commission had voted to use $6 million from American Rescue Plan Act to replace the heating/ventilation/air conditioning systems in the courthouse and the jail.


But even with those repairs, much of the sheriff’s staff would still be required to work in the basement over the old building — a basement with few windows, lack of fresh air and many of the problems staff has been complaining about for decades.

Over time, the need for a new building became clearer to the commission.

The prospective site for the new sheriff’s department complex hasn’t been revealed. Samson will disclose that information Wednesday when the commissioners meet to vote on the matter. 

The sheriff has high hopes for a vote of approval and then, at long last, his department can start looking to the future. 

“Staff is looking forward to the move, Samson said. “When this goes through, it will be a huge accomplishment for us and should accommodate the agency and public well into the future.” 

The 1857 Androscoggin County Courthouse complex at Court and Turner streets in Auburn includes the main entrance to the courthouse, far left, the entrance to the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office, center left, and the more recent, multistory jail addition, far right. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

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