The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office hopes to move to the former Evergreen Subaru at Center Street, foreground, and Joline Drive, left, in Auburn. The county commission authorized signing papers Friday to purchase the property. The City Council voted 5-1 on Feb. 22 to approve a six-month moratorium on development proposals for new public safety facilities. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Commission unanimously agreed last week to authorize signing papers Friday to purchase the former Evergreen Subaru dealership at 774 Center St. for $4.52 million in the hopes of building a Sheriff’s Office.

The two-block parcel also includes properties at 786 Center St., 20 and 40 Niskayuna St., 32, 40 and 60 Malibu Drive and 1079 Turner St.

Sheriff Eric Samson and County Commission Chairwoman Sally Christner were authorized by the board to sign the papers. Samson said Thursday that the signing is scheduled for Friday.

The county agreed to purchase the properties despite a 180-day moratorium imposed by the Auburn City Council on Feb. 22 when it learned of the pending sale. The council signed off on the moratorium on development proposals involving public safety facilities, detention facilities or correctional facilities “at a site on which one currently does not exist.” It passed on a 5-1 vote.

City Manager Phil Crowell had said the city’s zoning ordinances do not adequately address facilities like those needed by the Sheriff’s Office because Auburn has not had to consider such new facilities for over 50 years. He said the moratorium was not based on the belief that the department doesn’t need or deserve more space, but rather in response to concerns over “legitimate impacts on nearby businesses.”

Some Auburn residents and city officials have expressed concern with the location because it would remove a prime piece of real estate from the city’s tax rolls. Many also opposed the plan because they mistakenly thought the jail would also be moving.


Samson has stressed repeatedly that the jail will remain next to the county courthouse on Turner Street.

Samson had worked with a real estate agent and Harriman architectural firm in Auburn for the past few months on finding a suitable location for the Sheriff’s Office, which has inadequate and dingy quarters in the basement of the county courthouse.

The Center Street property has 6.54 acres, and the main structure is 12,619 square feet and built in 2005. It is less than 2 miles north of the Sheriff’s Office.

Commissioner Edouard Plourde of Lewiston expressed concern about purchasing the property when Auburn could still rule against allowing the project to proceed at the Center Street location.

Calling the process “a long road,” Commissioner Garrett Mason of Lisbon said the county could always sell the property, if necessary.

“This is a saleable asset,” Mason said. “A valuable asset. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail on both sides, and we can get something together that works.”

Samson said he doesn’t believe it will come to that. He is working with Harriman to design the sheriff’s office, which would require remodeling the existing building and putting on an addition.

The sheriff said his office and Harriman will keep city officials apprised of their plans and design for the property in hopes of addressing their concerns.

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