AUBURN — Swayed by the short time constraints needed for the project, the Androscoggin County Commission awarded Leeds $300,000 from its American Rescue Plan Act funds for a broadband initiative to connect every residence with internet service.
On Oct. 6, the town requested $450,000 toward its $2.2 million project to finance broadband service to the 329 residences to the town’s provider, Spectrum Cable. The project is not designed to compete with the existing system, only supplement service to those residences outside Spectrum’s network, Joe McLain, a member of the town’s broadband committee, said.
The town has worked on the project since 2019.
Commissioners said at their last meeting that they wanted to wait until at least April before considering which organizations to award the federal funding, but Leeds officials returned Wednesday evening to plead their case.
The town is planning to issue a $1 million bond for the project and will additionally spend its own allotment of $270,000 from ARPA funding on the project. The town is seeking state funding to close the gap. Much of those state funds are from the recently passed infrastructure bill in Congress, which McLean expects will fall far short of the amount needed to fund all worthy projects.
McLean said it was important to show a partnership between the town and the county to increase its odds of receiving a grant from the state, which will be determined in February and March.
With the application to receive state funding due at the end of this month, McLain said it was urgent to include a letter showing county support, contingent of receiving state funds.
County Administrator Larry Post recommended $250,000 toward the project, but the board approved $300,000, with only Commissioner Roland Poirier of Lewiston opposing.
Commissioners also heard an appeal from two members of the Edward Little High School Class of 1941, asking for $100,000. With the pandemic canceling its 70th class reunion, the class requested the 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 would be named for former band director and beloved music teacher Donald Gay, in whose name the class has been awarding scholarships for the past few decades.
The board took no action on the request.