AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Commission on Wednesday awarded nearly $1 million to the Trinity Jubilee Center and denied a six-figure request from the Maine Museum of Innovation, Learning and Labor, formerly known as Museum L-A.

The money was part of the $21 million received by the county from the American Rescue Plan Act signed in 2021 to help municipalities, counties and states bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioners faced a dilemma — they only had $2.7 million available, and the four outstanding requests totaled $4.14 million.

The Trinity Jubilee Center, which offers a soup kitchen, food pantry, day shelter, diaper bank, medical clinic and other services to people in need, has rented space in the basement of Trinity Episcopal Church for more than 30 years. But with limited space and facing other challenges, the center is planning to build a facility three blocks away on Bates Street across from the Fire Station.

Tonya Sands unloads some of the 4,800 pounds of food delivered in April 2022 to the Trinity Jubilee Center at 247 Bates St. in Lewiston. The center is planning a move from the basement of the church it has called home since 1991 to a few blocks away on Bates Street near the bus station. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The new facility will provide 5,500 square feet, more than twice its current size and will help solve its storage issues.

Having raised $580,000 of an expected total budget of $3.3 million, Erin Reed, the center’s executive director, asked the county for $950,000. She said the organization is also seeking $2 million in federal aid through U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office.


Commissioner Garrett Mason of Lisbon, who praised the center’s work, proposed that the county award Trinity up to $950,000 in a 50% matching grant.

Saying he wanted to hear from the three other organizations seeking county money, Commissioner Edouard Plourde of Lewiston urged his colleagues to hold off on voting, but the others were comfortable moving ahead and voted unanimously to approve the award.

With no one attending from the Franco Center and SeniorsPlus, both seeking $500,000, commissioners heard a presentation from Rachel Ferrante, executive director of the Maine MILL.

Ferrante spoke of the importance of Maine MILL helping the area becoming a cultural destination and would serve as an “economic driver for the area.” The organization has already raised $6 million and estimates it needs at least $10 million before it can open.

The goal is to start construction in 2024 and open in 2025, Ferrante said.

“I think it will be a great asset to have a museum,” Plourde said.


However, Maine MILL was asking for $2.49 million, the largest request by any outside organization. The museum had also received $300,000 from the county in federal pandemic relief money a year ago.

Commissioner Roland Poirier of Lewiston suggested splitting the remaining funds among the three groups, with the Franco Center and SeniorsPlus receiving their full request of $500,000 and the Maine Mill receiving the remaining $792,036.

A couple of commissioners balked. Commissioner Brian Ames of Lewiston pointed out that the county’s HVAC system, which remains in the planning stage, may require an additional $500,000 from what has already been earmarked.

And Mason became incensed when Plourde, in an offhanded remark, said the earlier $300,000 award was “like a slap in the face.”

But Ferrante assured Mason and other commissioners that the organization was delighted with the earlier award, but was hopeful more would be coming.

Commissioner Andrew Lewis of Auburn proposed the museum be awarded $650,000 in a matching grant. The motion, however, failed in a 3-3 tie with Poirier, Plourde and Lewis voting in favor, and Mason, Ames and Terri Kelly of Mechanic Falls voting no. Commission Chairman Sally Christner of Turner was absent.


After the vote, Mason asked if the board could table the issue, but was told the board could discuss the museum again at a later meeting.

No vote or discussion was taken on the Franco Center or SeniorsPlus.

In other business, the board approved spending $20,130 for Allied Engineering to work on a design change to the scope of the HVAC system project to bring it to between $5 million and $5.5 million. The latest bid came in at more than $8 million.

Mason said he is frustrated with the growing cost of the project. “That’s a lot of money to just retrofit a building,” he said.

Early in the meeting, commissioners met in executive session for 64 minutes with Sheriff Eric Samson and attorney Jamie Belleau.

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