Tim Savage pulls out a ceiling tile Tuesday and hands it down to Kyle Wright at Johnson Hall in Gardiner. Ganneston Construction Corp. employees started demolition this week at the performing arts center on Water Street. Kennebec County commissioners awarded the venue $1.6 million of the county’s federal pandemic relief funds to help complete the renovations. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — On Tuesday, the staff of the Augusta Reentry Center was a little shell-shocked.

The agency, which provides support for people affected by addiction to reduce the impact of substance abuse on communities and increase long-term recovery rates, was one of 44 organizations to request federal funds through Kennebec County’s share of federal pandemic recovery funds.

And it was one of 39 projects to be funded in part or in whole by the county’s $23.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, following Tuesday’s unanimous vote by the Kennebec County commissioners.

“We’re so very grateful,” Courtney Allen, policy director for the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project, said.

She was standing outside Hill House, the county government building, with Brandon Toby, director of operations at the Augusta Reentry Recovery Center, and Kelli Johnson, the center’s director of administration.

The three, who had sat through the commissioners’ meeting, said the nearly $622,000 in federal funds that the Kennebec County commissioners agreed to give the center is expected to be transformative for the program.


“(This) literally keeps the doors open on the center,” Allen said.

The money will pay for overhead, like rent and utilities, but it will also provide funds to help pay the current staff and add staff.

“We’ve been kind of slapping it together,” Toby said. “We’ve been able to keep that place floating just off, really, hopes and dreams and a little elbow grease.”

“And very dedicated volunteers,” Johnson said.

With the resources the program currently has, it has already been at work inside the Kennebec County jail to provide recovery coach training and reentry training, and offer support groups at the Augusta Recovery Reentry Center.

Allen said this investment will help the center prove that it can do what it set out to do.


Kyle Wright of Ganneston Construction Corp. carries ceiling tiles out to a truck Tuesday at Johnson Hall in Gardiner. Ganneston employees started demolition this week at the performing arts center on Water Street. Kennebec County commissioners awarded the venue $1.6 million of the county’s federal COVID relief funds to help complete the renovations. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“Then we’ll continue to fundraise and do what we’ve always done — find the money— because the need is so great,” Allen said.

The funds on the county’s list will pay for projects ranging from repairs to Clinton’s water tank to prevent a catastrophic failure to renovations on Gardiner’s Johnson Hall performing arts center and from investments in housing to support for childcare services across the county.

Among the largest requests granted are $3 million for the Greater Augusta Utility District to run drinking water transmission mains from State Street to Hospital Street under the Kennebec River in Augusta; $603,000 to Kennebec Valley Family Dentistry to increase the nonprofit’s ability to provide affordable dental services to people on MaineCare, who have limited income or who are under insured or not insured; and $1 million to the North River Co. to help pay for renovations to the former Lockwood Mill in Waterville for 65 apartments, of which 18 are expected to be market-rate and 47 are expected to be affordable.

The decisions come nearly a year after the county launched the grant program to distribute the county’s share of federal pandemic recovery funds in August 2021. For the commissioners, the goal was to identify projects with potential for long-term impact that would help a broad segment of the county’s population.

All the projects were scored based on a series of questions including the likelihood of the project’s success, the availability of other funds to complete the project and demonstrated economic harm because of the COVID-19 pandemic, among other factors.

Over the course of two workshops in May, county officials, working with consultants from BerryDunn, the certified public accounting and management consulting firm hired by the county for the project, made the final determination about awarding funds.


“This money will pay dividends in Kennebec County for years to come. Unfortunately, we couldn’t fund everyone,” District Commissioner George Jabar II said; his district includes northern Kennebec County.

District 1 Commissioner Patsy Crockett thanked her colleagues for their work on the project and considering what was best for county residents.

“This has been a great opportunity,” Crockett, who represents Augusta and six other central Kennebec County communities, said. “The Biden administration and the folks in Washington sent this money to us to try to help the people of Kennebec County.”

The American Rescue Plan Act has funneled $65.1 billion in direct federal aid to counties across the United States. County officials received the first half of the funds a year ago, and are expecting the second half to arrive sometime this month.

Under the rules of the program, the funds must be obligated for projects by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.

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