The property at 774 Center St. in Auburn where the former Evergreen Subaru was located will become the new headquarters for the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office. Boulos Company photo

AUBURN — After more than a century at its current home, the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office is moving out of the courthouse on Turner Street and going two miles north to Center Street.

The Androscoggin County Commission agreed to spend $4.52 million to purchase the former Evergreen Subaru property at 774 Center St. as the new home for the department.

The property has 6.54 acres. The main structure is 12,619 square feet, which was built in 2005. The property, bordered by Center Street, Stetson Road, Turner Street and Malibu Drive, includes six homes on the back corner of the lot.

Following more than 30 minutes of debate in executive session, the commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the proposal by Sheriff Eric Samson to move his department out of its dingy quarters in the basement of the courthouse. Commissioners Sally Christner of Turner, Brian Ames of Lewiston, Terri Kelly of Mechanic Falls and Garrett Mason of Lisbon voted in favor of the purchase, while Edouard Plourde of Lewiston voted no. John Michael of Auburn left the meeting early and Roland Poirier of Lewiston was absent.

Plourde said he understood the need for a new facility but was concerned with the costs and lack of other options.

“I’m very uneasy about entering into this purchase without vetting other options,” he said.


Plourde attempted to postpone voting on the proposal until the next meeting, but that motion died for lack of a second.

Samson was relieved after the vote Wednesday night.

“This is great news for the taxpayers,” Samson said.

The property at 774 Center St. in Auburn where the former Evergreen Subaru was located will become the new headquarters for the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office. Boulos Company photo

American Rescue Plan Act funds will be used to purchase the property. Samson said the availability of such funds was a bonus. He had started the process of determining his department’s needs months ago before those funds became available. Without them, the county would have needed to issue a bond or increase taxes to move forward.

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. 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 earlier this week. “This is what’s been said. It’s actually embarrassing for us.”

For the past three months, Samson has talked to a real estate agents about moving his department to another location that would better meet its space needs.

A feasibility and a space study conducted earlier this year by the Auburn architectural firm Harriman concluded that the courthouse lacked the room for a safe and professional operation.

“I think we’ve proved this place isn’t suitable,” Samson told the commissioners in December. “There’s not enough space. The basement isn’t an appropriate space to have offices, even if there was enough space. It’s time for us to locate to a permanent home that meets the needs of the agency and the public we serve.”

The basement area is plagued by mold, few windows, lack of fresh air, toilets leaking from the upper floors into the patrol rooms and onto sloping and spongy floors, to name some of the problems. The facility lacks training and weight rooms, and adequate interview rooms.

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 on a three-acre site to meet its present needs, plus room to expand in the future. 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.”

“This has probably been kicked down the road since the 1990s when the new jail was built,” Samson said. “The old jail was supposed to be remodeled for the Sheriff’s Office and it never was, and they were all put in the basement. They kept putting up walls and doors and renovating different areas to be what we have now.”

The next step, Samson said, would be to work with Harriman to complete the design and alterations of the new facility and to bring those plans back to the commissioners. While Samson said there is no firm timetable, he is hoping to quickly move some of his staff with offices in the basement into the new building. The seller agreed to include the furniture in the purchase price.

Samson added that he hopes to move the jail to the new location in the future, but admitted that could be years into the future.

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