By: Sen. Susan M. Collins
The federal government funding bill that was signed into law on March 15 includes more than $200 million I successfully secured for 105 vital projects across Maine. These investments will support initiatives by Maine’s state government, municipalities, and non-profit organizations that will promote job creation and economic development, improve infrastructure, expand community resources for Mainers, and protect our environment.
As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have long championed investments that support Maine’s communities and families. Throughout the Appropriations process, I heard from state and local leaders about their work to enhance the well-being of Mainers and improve the delivery of services.
I strongly advocated for these projects, including a dozen totaling nearly $24 million that I secured for Aroostook County.
The government funding law provides nearly $13 million for infrastructure improvements to increase the safety, efficiency, and reliability of freight rail between Aroostook and Penobscot counties. Through my travels around the state, I’ve seen firsthand the positive effects of investing in our railroads, as well as our roads and bridges, to help manufacturers and farmers ship their products to market and support jobs in rural parts of our state. An additional $1.2 million will provide preliminary engineering for improvements to U.S. Rt. 1 in Presque Isle.
In addition to being the site of a Defense Finance Accounting Service (DFAS), the Loring Commerce Centre in Limestone has attracted several companies that provide hundreds of jobs. The $3.1 million I secured will allow this commercial, industrial, and aviation park to better serve its existing tenants by making roadway improvements and demolishing substandard structures. These upgrades will also help bring new businesses and jobs to Aroostook County.
In addition, the law makes important investments in the workforce development programs. Federal funding of $1 million will enable Northern Maine Community College’s Mechanized Logging Operations to purchase equipment and develop curriculum for a successful program that has placed graduates into well-paid logging jobs. NMCC also will receive $988,000 to expand technical and safety workforce training for wind turbine technicians. Through a collaborative effort with Maine Maritime Academy, NMCC is becoming an international training provider in the wind power industry, supporting this growing workforce in the northeast. I was delighted to advocate for these two NMCC projects.
Another $1 million will support efforts at the University of Maine at Presque Isle and at Fort Kent to help address our state’s nursing shortage. The UMaine System will use this funding to purchase a pediatric and obstetric mobile simulator that will double clinical training capacity for nurses in Northern Maine as well as train nurses in other rural communities. Earlier this year, I visited UMPI to see firsthand how this new mobile simulation unit will help bolster our state’s rural health care workforce and keep Mainers healthy.
Funding will also strengthen health care and social services on several fronts. Like much of the country, Northern Maine has a growing number of individuals battling substance use disorders, and bed shortages and waitlists for care can be a significant roadblock to receiving treatment. I secured $1 million to help Aroostook Mental Health Center expand access to residential substance abuse treatment. Funding of $200,000 will allow Fish River Rural Health’s Madawaska Clinic to purchase a new generator to prevent interruptions in care and to protect refrigerated and frozen vaccine supplies during power outages. Nearly $650,000 for a new mobile unit will help the Aroostook County Action Program assist more struggling families throughout the region.
Finally, provisions that I advocated for will help municipalities better serve their residents. The $750,000 I secured for a new public safety building in Washburn will allow the town’s brave firefighters and police officers to deliver reliable emergency services while also providing new office space. The $732,000 I obtained for the Walkable Houlton project will make it easier for seniors to get around downtown by eliminating tripping hazards, and it will increase safety for students and other pedestrians by restoring curbs to clearly delineate roads and sidewalks. The project will also renovate the Gateway Pedestrian Bridge, which has become a symbol for Houlton. The Town of Frenchville will receive $247,000 to upgrade its public waste water system.
I was pleased to support excellent proposals from all across Maine during the fiscal year 2022 Appropriations process. As we begin work on funding for the next fiscal year, I will continue to work hard to advance projects that benefit the people of Maine.