AUGUSTA — City officials recommend using $75,000 of Augusta’s remaining pandemic relief funds to clean up encampments left by an increasing number of homeless people living on city property.

City Manager Susan Robertson said that since April, the city has spent a little over $33,000 hiring contractors to clean up trash and other items left behind at homeless encampments in Mill Park and elsewhere. That’s up from about $13,000 the city spent last fall, as, Robertson said, the number of encampments in the city has “ballooned” in the last couple of years.

While tolerating some level of camping on city property, city officials have in some cases directed people to leave if problems arise, such as trash left at campsites. In those cases officials have warned people living at those sites to leave, and, once vacated, the city has had to have some trash, tents and debris cleaned up.

Robertson said some of the cleanups have involved “hazardous material,” so the city hired specialists to clean up the sites instead of having city staff do so.

She recommends city councilors commit $75,000 of Augusta’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for $33,000 in cleanups already done and set aside the rest for future use, if and when the need arises.

City councilors discussed the proposal Dec. 13 and could vote on it as soon as their business meeting this Thursday.


City councilors expressed support for the idea, as a way to improve the appearance and cleanliness of the city.

“I get a ton of calls from people complaining about debris everywhere that needs to be picked up,” said Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti. “It just came up at a Pedestrian Committee meeting last night, that walking around the streets of Augusta is not pleasant, because of all the trash around. Having money available to spend to clean up public parks and sidewalks is a good thing.”

Robertson said Augusta currently has about $227,000 in ARPA funding left that has not yet been allocated. But she said the city will likely have some additional ARPA funds it had committed to help fund operations of the Augusta Overnight Emergency Warming Center that won’t be needed for that use. Councilors previously agreed to allocate up to $180,000 to help fund the center at South Parish Congregational Church. However, Robertson said the center has since been awarded state grant funding and will likely only need around $116,000 from the city, leaving some of the $180,000 allocated for it to be spent for other uses.

Robertson said the city thus will have around $290,000 in ARPA funds to spend, within federal guidelines.

She said the ARPA funds can be used to recover the cost for cleanups back to April 1. She said the city has until the end of next year to allocate its ARPA funds and up to two years to spend them.

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