Nov. 1—LEWISTON — The city is planning to open a long-term "community resilience center" at the Peck building on Main Street with the help of various grants approved by the City Council during a special meeting Wednesday morning.
The City Council voted unanimously to apply for and appropriate several grant sources meant to assist communities affected by a mass shooting.
According to city officials, the community resilience center will replace the temporary Lewiston Armory site at 65 Central Ave. and the Ramada hotel at 490 Pleasant St. as the primary resource location for community members seeking counseling following last week's shooting. The armory had been set up for victims and their families, while the Ramada was available for the broader community.
City Administrator Heather Hunter said the funding will help the community pivot from the emergency response over the past week to a longer-term response. The city is hoping to get the new program up and running by the end of this week, she said.
The special meeting was called Wednesday because there are "timing mechanisms" tied to funding, and the city could not wait until its next regular meeting.
According to Hunter, staff of local nonprofit group Community Concepts have stepped forward to run the resilience center, and the city is hoping other grant funds can be identified to cover overtime costs and other nonprofit services, including from Tri-County Mental Health Services.
"They have been instrumental every step of the way during the emergency response, so I want to see what funding is available for those agencies," Hunter told the council.
A memo shared with the council regarding a community resilience center states that for many victims, survivors, first responders and families, the effect of mass violence extends beyond the acute phase of the incident, and while a "family assistance center" is made available for victims in the immediate aftermath, a community resilience center "focuses on the longer-term needs of victims and selected impacted individuals."
These centers are designed to offer "service navigation, case management, and behavioral health support for victims and families in a more established location."
"Setting up a community resiliency center is quickly becoming a best practice following a mass shooting and some cities have had them in operation for over a year after an event," Mayor Carl Sheline said. "Our community is just beginning the healing process and this center will be invaluable as we move forward together. Our community partners have my unreserved gratitude."
Hunter said the funding could support the center for "upwards of 27 months," and that its operation will be based on the broader community's needs and grieving pattern.
The city plans a soft handoff from the support centers at the armory and Ramada, she said.
Hunter told the council that since the process to reimburse communities for the cost of the program can take up to a year, the city will serve as the fiscal agent for the grants.
Much of the Peck building, owned by Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque, has been vacant since L.L.Bean moved its call center out in 2021. The community resilience center will use the entire second floor.
Hunter said the catwalk from the adjacent Chapel Street parking garage goes directly to the second floor.
Oxford County Administrator Donald Durrah dies unexpectedly
Rob Gronkowski and Will Ferrell urge a big audience for a big game in Lewiston tonight