GREENVILLE, Maine — If U.S. Sen. Susan Collins rises to the top of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mainers can expect to see the senator work to secure more funding for community projects around the state and biomedical research, she said.
Collins, a Republican who has attended events this week to preview her expected role as the top Republican on the appropriations panel, made several stops in Piscataquis County on Thursday.
She toured the Greenville Fire Department and stopped at C.A. Dean Hospital, the Stress Free Moose restaurant and the Greenville Town Office to discuss a number of ongoing economic development efforts and projects, such a child care facility that families and the school district’s superintendent say are desperately needed.
Maine’s senior senator is previewing her priorities for the top seats on the appropriations panel and defense subcommittee if Republicans take control of the Senate. Despite not being on the Nov. 8 ballot, much is at stake for Collins because she’s relying on a crop of Republicans to get her over the finish line.
“My priorities will remain focused on helping communities like Greenville secure funding for very worthy community projects [and] increasing and sustaining an increase in biomedical research, which is important to families throughout our state,” Collins said.
It’s also crucial to institutions such as Jackson Laboratory and MDI Biological Laboratory as well as other smaller biotech companies in our state, she said. Collins attended a biomedical conference in Portland earlier this week, and she has advocated for federal funding for research on diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes.
In Greenville specifically, town officials hope Collins can help them secure a $902,000 grant to replace the outdated fire station, which is riddled with code violations and lacks basic necessities like hot water.
The town, which has seen an influx in emergency calls as more people have moved to the area, needs an updated facility to do its job, Fire Chief Sawyer Murray said.
A new public safety building, which would house the fire and police departments, is planned, and town officials hope to see it completed in February 2024. Touring the fire station opened Collins’ eyes to real health and safety concerns, she said.
Collins also met with the town manager, public safety leaders, Greenville Select Board members, business owners and others to discuss various grants she hopes to acquire. The funding would help bring the expansion of child care, construction of a municipal sewer line in Big Moose Township and other projects to fruition.
Collins was also scheduled to visit the Piscataquis County Ice Arena and recently unveiled Jim Robinson Field House in Dover-Foxcroft.
Other priorities that Collins outlined during Thursday’s visit included rebuilding the Navy and strengthening national defense.
“That’s critical to our national security, but it also helps ensure a bright future for Bath Iron Works and for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and for the many small businesses in our state that provide goods and services to them,” she said.
It isn’t guaranteed that Republicans will win a Senate majority because the party’s chances rely on candidates like Georgia’s Herschel Walker — who has spoken out against abortion and denied allegations that he paid for an abortion in 2009 for the mother of one of his children — succeeding in tough races. He faces Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat narrowly elected in a 2020 runoff.
Collins has stayed out of the Georgia race because her colleague is the incumbent, she said, and she remembers being told early in her Senate tenure to never campaign directly against a colleague because the Senate is too small. But Collins wants to see Republican control of the Senate because the country needs more checks and balances, she said.
“It has not been healthy for our economy to have the Democrats controlling the executive branch and both houses of Congress,” she said. “My focus has always been, since my first days as a senator, on helping incumbent Republican senators get reelected and also putting my efforts toward open seats.”
Collins is particularly encouraged by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is facing a tougher race than he intended, she said. She said he cares for constituents and the country.
“That’s a top priority race for me,” she said.
BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.