Brian Monk, left, and Rayno Boivin measure and position another row of seats in April 2022 at the Colonial Theater in downtown Augusta. The venue at 139 Water St. is among more than a dozen central Maine projects to receive funding in the $1.7 trillion federal budget approved last week by Congress. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

A robotic surgical system for MaineGeneral, efforts to restore the Colonial Theater in downtown Augusta, the creation of a new Boys & Girls Club of Augusta Teen Center, the construction of a fire station in North Anson and plans to build a bridge over the Sandy River in Farmington to connect a regional trail system are among more than a dozen major projects in central Maine to secure funding in the federal budget.

The $1.7 trillion spending package approved by Congress last week and expected to go to President Joe Biden for his signature this week includes more than $15 billion in congressionally directed spending, formerly known as earmarks, to Maine.

Nearly $7.2 million in federal funding is to go to projects in Augusta, including $1.2 million to convert a downtown Augusta building into the new home for the Boys & Girls Club of Augusta Teen Center, $207,000 to build a full-scale replica of the Cushnoc Trading Post and expand educational programming at Old Fort Western, including the contributions of Native Americans, and $1.5 million to help with the ongoing restoration of the historic Colonial Theater in downtown Augusta.

“We’re $1.5 million closer, and that money gives greater credibility to the project and helps us leverage other funds,” Kathi Wall, executive director of the theater, said Tuesday. “So it will certainly make a difference.”

The theater has already undergone between $1.5 million and $2 million in restoration work, including new roofing, floor and facade improvements as part of a restoration expected to cost about $8.5 million. Wall said the theater’s board of directors is expected to decide what part of the restoration process should be next and how the new funding is to be used.

A robotic system used for surgery at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta. Officials say $2 million in federal funding will allow the hospital to acquire more of the same equipment. On the bed is a tool surgeons use for public education. It allows a person to sit at the console and manipulate the arms. Photo courtesy of MaineGeneral Medical Center

The budget includes $2 million for MaineGeneral to acquire an upgraded da Vinci Xi robotic surgical system, which Chuck Hays, president and CEO of MaineGeneral Health, said would be used by surgeons to perform a wide range of minimally invasive surgeries, including general surgery, urology, thoracic, obstetrics and bariatrics.


“Having this technology available locally means patients have access to surgical methods proven to have better health outcomes, shorter recovery times, fewer complications and less scaring,” Joy McKenna, a hospital spokesperson, said, adding that MaineGeneral, according to the device’s manufacturer, is now the busiest site using the device in the Northeast. “Given the current financial state of hospitals, without this funding, MaineGeneral would not be able to purchase a new da Vinci Xi robot for years.”

Hays and McKenna said the robot also improves MaineGeneral’s ability to recruit and retain health care professionals in rural Maine, where there are workforce shortages, because surgeons are increasingly trained in using robotics.

MaineGeneral now has two of the robots — one at Thayer Center for Health in Waterville, the other at the Alfond Center for Health in Augusta — and has yet to determine where the new, upgraded one will go.

“Upgrading MaineGeneral’s surgical equipment with this cutting-edge robotic-assistance surgical system will provide central Maine residents with access to the most advanced care, improving health outcomes,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a statement to the news media.

Other regional projects designated to be funded in the federal budget include:

• $2.04 million to the High Peaks Alliance to fund the construction of a multiple-use bridge over the Sandy River from downtown Farmington, connecting the regional Whistle Stop Trail.


• $1.9 million to Winthrop Utilities District to upgrade its sewer pumping stations and make necessary structural repairs to pump chambers.

• $1.5 million to replace the North Anson Fire Station.

• $646,000 to Kennebec Valley YMCA to expand its child care services by building a 2,000-square-foot addition to its existing facility in Augusta.

• $603,000 to Kennebec Family Dentistry to increase the nonprofit’s capacity by expanding into 3,400 square feet next to its existing Augusta facility.

• $600,000 to the Upper Kennebec Valley Ambulance Service to buy medical equipment and ambulances.

• $570,000 to the town of Alna to replace the Alna Egypt Road Bridge.


• $515,000 to Kennebec Valley Community College to stabilize and repair two building roofs at its Harold Alfond Campus.

• $500,000 to Anson-Madison Sanitary District to design and install a PFAS treatment facility.

• $500,000 to the University of Maine at Augusta to develop and deliver in-person and online professional training in cybersecurity for all Maine municipalities.

“These historic investments are going directly to the local organizations who need them the most and can effectively provide economic opportunities, personal enrichment, and other vital public services,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said in a statement to the news media.

“Maine people have always looked out for each other, and the 140 nonprofits and local governments receiving these funds are no different — they have proven track records of success in our communities and will use this support to expand and improve their efforts.”

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