AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Commission on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected a far-reaching proposal that would have established a health freedom policy at the county building.
Introduced by Commissioner Isaiah Lary of Wales, the proposal would have made it illegal to “incentivize, require, coerce, or force any medical interventions for inmates, staff, elected or appointed officials or the public.” That would include “screening tests, evaluations, treatments, chips, drugs, devices, surgeries, vaccinations or injections.”
In addition, the proposal would prevent requiring proof of medical interventions, such as vaccination passports, cards, apps, records and other methods.
“This is needed to support our freedom,” Lary, who has previously fought against the mask mandate, said.
Lary, who was the only commissioner participating in the meeting by Zoom, conceded that the proposal would only apply to employees and visitors to the county building on Turner Street in Auburn and not cover all of Androscoggin County.
Commissioners saw many problems with the proposed policy.
Noel Madore of Lewiston stressed there are no plans by the federal government nor Maine Gov. Janet Mills to require everyone to get vaccinated. He said public comments by those at the state and federal levels have been just the opposite.
Sheriff Eric Samson said he will never require inmates or his staff to get the vaccination. Samson also will not coerce nor offer incentives for them to receive the shots. He added that any policy change involving inmates must be approved by the Maine Department of Corrections.
County Administrator Larry Post said the proposal would prohibit the county from requiring doctor notes for employees who have been on medical leave.
Commissioner John Michael of Auburn praised Samson and Post for their leadership during the pandemic. He told Lary, “You’re looking for a fight when there is no fight.”
Three members of the public spoke in favor of the proposal, saying the county needed to be out in front of it in case getting vaccinated is required in the future.
Commissioners rejected the proposal by a 6-1 vote, with Lary the only supporter of it.
After the meeting, some of his colleagues called Lary’s actions “grandstanding.”
Chairwoman Sally Christner of Turner, Terri Kelly of Mechanic Falls and Brian Ames of Lewiston said their no vote did not mean they supported mandatory vaccinations and passports. On the contrary. Their opposition was due to the language in the far-reaching proposal and their support for the leadership shown by Samson and Post on the issue.
In other business, commissioners approved a request from the U.S. Board on Geographic Names on behalf of the Royal River Conservation Trust to call an unnamed stream Talking Brook. The stream originates in Auburn and flows 2.2 miles into Meadow Brook in New Gloucester. The name Talking Brook has been used by the landowner since the 1970s.
Cumberland County and New Gloucester have already approved the name. It was unclear if Auburn has voted on the issue.
Post announced the county will drop the face mask requirement at the county building for employees and visitors beginning Monday, but judicial branch may still require masks in court.
With six of the seven commissioners at the meeting and with the mask requirement ending, consideration was given to ending the use of Zoom for future meetings, but the board also agreed to continue having it available for participants. Michael and Madore said the option would open up their proceedings to those who cannot attend.