AUGUSTA — City councilors have agreed to extend stepped-up police patrols in downtown Augusta as residents increasingly say they don’t feel safe there.

Councilors expressed support Thursday for a recommendation from City Manager Susan Robertson to use $114,000 from the city’s remaining pandemic relief funding to cover increased overtime for more downtown police patrols.

The increased patrols, which began earlier this summer, are to be extended from Nov. 1 to June 30.

Some merchants and residents have said they feel threatened by what they say is an increasing number of  aggressive homeless people on Water Street.

Councilors also discussed but took no action on a proposal to use some of the city’s remaining $521,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding to help fund the second year of operations of the Augusta Overnight Emergency Center, which provides the area’s homeless people a place to sleep in winter.

Councilors said they would support the city providing between $125,000 and $179,000 to help fund the center’s operations this winter, but they first want to see if the center can obtain MaineHousing grant funding to help cover its costs.


Richard Parkhurst, who with other members of his family owns multiple buildings in downtown Augusta, said city officials must take action and provide more police protection in the downtown area.

Parkhurst said his daughter, Soo Parkhurst, who owns buildings near the long-operating Bread of Life Ministries Soup Kitchen, has been threatened multiple times and had her car tampered with. Parkhurst said his daughter is afraid to go home by herself at night. Officials with Bread of Life Ministries have told him what takes place outside their building is not their problem, he said.

“The dynamics are changing. Homeless people are more threatening now. Homeless people are more aggressive,” Richard Parkhurst said at Thursday’s City Council meeting. “For someone to threaten to throw hot coffee in your face because you want to enter your own building, it’s wrong. And somebody needs to do something about it, and soon, before somebody gets very hurt. It’s just a matter of time.”

Michael Hall, executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance, said the increased police patrols downtown have helped reduce some the problems, including littering, open use of illegal drugs and begging. Hall said the number of homeless people in Augusta could increase this winter.

“As you know, there are a lot of camps being taken down in Portland and Bangor, and we’re expecting even more of an influx throughout the winter of different people,” he said. “We want to have a way to coexist, and the community policing that we’ve had out there has worked wonders for the downtown.”

Chief Jared Mills of the Augusta Police Department, who is also assistant city manager, said when police began increasing patrols in the downtown area, they focused on the southern end of Water Street. Officers have now shifted their focus to the northern end.

The proposal will likely go to councilors for a vote at their next business meeting.

Councilors also expressed support for providing funding – also with remaining ARPA money – to help reopen the Augusta Overnight Emergency Warming Center for a second year for homeless people to spend nights this winter. Councilors, however, instructed Robertson not to bring the item up for a council vote until more information is known about the center’s prospects for obtaining a grant from MaineHousing.

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