Androscoggin commissioners award Leeds $ 300,000 for internet service



AUBURN – Blown away by the time constraints for the project, the Androscoggin County Commission awarded Leeds $ 300,000 from American Rescue Plan Act funds for a broadband initiative to connect every residence to a internet service.

On October 6, the city requested $ 450,000 for its $ 2.2 million project to fund 329 home broadband service from the city’s provider, Spectrum Cable. The project is not designed to compete with the existing system, but only to supplement the service of residences located outside of the Spectrum network, said Joe McLain, a member of the city’s broadband committee.

The city has been working on the project since 2019.

Commissioners said at their last meeting they wanted to wait until at least April before determining which organizations to allocate federal funding, but Leeds officials returned on Wednesday evening to argue their case.

The city plans to issue a bond of $ 1 million for the project and will additionally spend its own allocation of $ 270,000 from ARPA funding for the project. The city is seeking public funds to close the gap. Much of that public money comes from the infrastructure bill recently passed by Congress, which McLean says will be well below the amount needed to fund all worthwhile projects.

McLean said it was important to show a city-county partnership to increase his chances of receiving a state grant, which will be determined in February and March.

With the state funding request expected at the end of this month, McLain said there was an urgent need to include a letter showing the county’s support, subject to receiving state funding.

County administrator Larry Post recommended $ 250,000 for the project, but council approved $ 300,000, only Commissioner Roland Poirier of Lewiston objecting.

Commissioners also heard an appeal from two members of the Edward Little High School class of 1941, asking for $ 100,000. With the pandemic having canceled its 70th class reunion, the class asked for money to build a $ 500,000 endowment for the naming rights for the performing arts center being built as part of the new high school. The performing arts center is said to be named after the beloved former conductor and music teacher Donald Gay, on whose behalf the class has awarded scholarships over the past decades.

The council did not respond to the request.

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