Kayaks and canoes head down the Androscoggin River on June 17 between Lewiston and Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — An initial ask of $100,000 was doubled by the City Council on Monday toward a project that will bring a kayak rental kiosk and several modular spaces to Auburn.

Officials said the modular spaces, by Maine company “OpBox,” would give the city a unique economic development driver for both recreational events and potential business incubators.

The council appropriated $200,000 from the city’s allotment from the American Rescue Plan Act toward the initiative, which will include several of the OpBoxes, as well as a kayak rental station that would be placed by the Androscoggin River behind Gritty’s.

Jay Brenchick, director of Economic Development, said the boxes are in high demand due to their range of use. He’s hoping the city can partner with an outdoor company like L.L.Bean, which already has a relationship with OpBox, to have the modular hold outdoor gear such as fishing rods or cornhole sets for community events. During the winter it could be moved to host ice skating rentals.

He said the goal was to have the OpBox and kayak rentals, through a company called “Rent.Fun,” up and running by Auburn’s Blues and Brews festival in September.

Officials were sold Monday, and Brenchick said the additional funds will allow for the purchase of multiple smaller OpBoxes to be used at craft fairs, farmers’ markets, a Christmas village or “portable business incubators.”


According to a memo from Brenchick to the council, the city’s Downtown Revitalization Plan calls for incorporating river activities in events and to use the activities as “a way to draw businesses and people to our downtown areas.”

He said both purchases check those boxes, and that the OpBoxes could potentially help smaller startup businesses eventually turn into “brick and mortar” businesses.


Also on Monday, the council agreed in concept to funding $1.6 million in extensive HVAC upgrades to four city buildings, after an audit found poor ventilation and high levels of carbon dioxide.

The audit found that carbon dioxide levels in three buildings — Hasty, Norway Savings Bank Arena and the Auburn Public Library — “far exceed acceptable standards.”

At the arena, for example, the study found that “CO2 levels in the rinks and locker rooms are exceedingly high,” and that it “is impacting occupants’ physical health and mental acuity.”


Staff had requested the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds, but officials could not agree over the method for funding the work.

While several councilors said the city should take immediate action on the issues in the buildings, including the Hasty Community Center and Norway Savings Bank Arena, Mayor Jason Levesque argued the city should instead bond the funds.

Levesque also questioned the source of the audit, which was completed by a company called Building Infrastructure Management Solutions, because it was done free of charge.

“I have serious doubts about the authenticity of the study,” he said. “At this point, I think a second opinion is needed.”

The council ultimately voted unanimously to direct the city manager to begin the bid process on the projects, with the funding source to be determined.

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