Androscoggin County Sheriff calls for higher wages to prevent staff from leaving for higher paying jobs



AUBURN – Sheriff Eric Samson pleaded with the Androscoggin County commission on Wednesday to increase the salaries of MPs and correctional officers so that they do not leave for agencies offering higher salaries and other benefits.

He pointed to recent decisions by Mechanic Falls and Sabattus to increase wages to $ 4 an hour. That would make wages higher than those in Androscoggin County, Samson said. Lewiston, Auburn and the Maine State Police also pay more than the county, he added.

The starting salary for an Androscoggin County Patrol Assistant is $ 19.93 per hour, while correctional officers start at $ 18.61 per hour.

Samson has lost staff to better paying agencies and he fears others may follow. Mexico City, for example, offered a bonus of $ 10,000 to new officers.

Some neighboring agencies have started actively recruiting members of his department by offering incentives, Samson added.

He asked the commissioners for an increase of at least $ 1 an hour for correctional officers and a higher amount for patrol officers.

Most of the seven commissioners seemed in favor of a salary adjustment, but with the budget expected to be finalized next month, they wondered where to find the money at that late date to offer raises.

County administrator Larry Post suggested using the American Rescue Plan Act money, saying it would qualify by offsetting the amount with lost income.

The Budget Committee had already authorized its use for certain operational budget items.

“I think we have to do it,” said Commissioner Edouard Plourde of Lewiston. “They are collapsing. “

When asked if this should go to the budget committee, Post replied that it was not, as the money for the federal coronavirus bill falls within the purview of the commissioners.

“I think you’re asking for trouble if you go back to the Budget Committee,” Post said.

Wales Commissioner Isaiah Lary said he was unhappy the issue came up so late in the process.

“We should have learned this when reviewing the budget,” Lary said.

The commissioners said they would address the issue at a future meeting when the full cost of the wage adjustment is determined. The board, however, did not specify the amount of increase it was prepared to consider.

In other cases, several county residents have spoken out against state and federal vaccine and mask warrants and urged commissioners to support a resolution prepared by Lary that would condemn “unconstitutional injection warrants.” The resolution also condemns “the action of the administration of Governor Mills, and in particular of Dr Nirav Shah, for removing the religious exemption for the vaccination / injection of healthcare workers.”

The resolution would not stop any proposed mandate, but Lary said it was important to speak out against any current or potential future vaccine mandate.

The resolution will likely be on the agenda for a meeting next month.

The board heard a presentation from Leeds Selectman Jan Wiegman and James McLean, a member of the Leeds Broadband Committee, who asked for help to fund a broadband expansion. The $ 2 million project would bring broadband service to the entire city. Cable company Spectrum provides service to nearly 800 potential subscribers. This leaves almost 329 potential subscribers without any internet service.

The city will partner with Axiom Technologies of Machias to build the network. The city, which will own the infrastructure, will not compete with Spectrum for customers, Wiegman said. He asked the county for $ 450,000, which he said was the city’s share of federal coronavirus relief money.

City officials have been asked to submit a formal request in writing to the commissioners, but Commissioner Roland Poirier of Lewiston said it would be difficult to accede to the request along with 13 other municipalities in the county.

The board supported spending federal funds on two projects – $ 70,000 for the flooring and roofing of the county building and $ 70,059 for the accounting software system for the treasurer’s office.

The board also heard a presentation from Tony Davis of Allied Engineering on the proposed $ 6.5 million HVAC system upgrade. The board of directors did not follow up on the proposal.

Commissioners also approved a new remote meeting policy, which will allow public participation in Zoom.

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