City should pause before demolition

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When it’s gone it’s gone.

That’s why the Lewiston City Council should take one last listen to a group of citizens who would like to save Bates Mill No. 5.

The group, which includes County Commissioner Jonathan LaBonte, contends that the decision to level the massive old building was based upon some faulty information, and that recently enacted tax breaks may make the site more valuable with the building than without.

The city has spent years weighing various ideas for the mill, and even advertised for proposals in 2008, but without success.

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The decision to level the mill was based partly on the idea that the city was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to maintain the building, and that a vacant lot would be more attractive to developers.

The citizens group trying to save the mill challenge both assumptions.

First, LaBonte says that in 2009 the mill practically broke even, based upon parking revenue from the lots around it.  What’s more, since the city last advertised the site, new state and federal tax breaks for developing historic structures have gone into effect.

There have also been questions raised about the structural integrity of the building. LaBonte says that two local architects have determined that the building is still rock solid.

What’s more, within recent months a group of local investors has come forward with a plan for developing a casino on the site.

While we think the casino plan faces very long odds, the city should take the time to determine whether it would make more financial sense in the old mill or in new construction.

It is unfortunate that these questions are being raised just before demolition is to begin on the mill.

Still, it’s worth taking one more look at the group’s arguments before moving forward.

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