Pettingill neighbors get breathing room

LEWISTON — Councilors will give neighbors until July to come up with a plan for the fate of the old Pettingill Elementary School and its popular playground.

Councilors voted 7-0 to put any plans to sell or redevelop the old building on hold until that time.

"That does not exclude anyone from looking at the property," said Councilor John Butler. "It just means we won't sell it before that."

July is also the earliest time the city could move to demolish the building, according to City Administrator Ed Barrett. He said the city would include the building demolition in the capital improvements plan for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

"The actual approval wouldn't come until May at the earliest," Barrett said. "If that's the case, we would be looking at doing the demolition this summer."

Lewiston officially closed Pettingill Elementary School in 2008, moving the students there to the newer Geiger Elementary School. School Committee members recommended tearing the building down and building a neighborhood park on the 2.11-acre lot.

Neighbors have been using the former school's playground as a community park ever since the school closed.

Developing the lot as a city park could be expensive, according to city estimates — $120,000 for the demolition and $75,000 for fencing, landscaping and site work.

Selling off part of the property could defray those costs. A plan to build five single-family homes on the land was withdrawn by the developers last month. The upfront cost of demolishing the school building was too high for the developer to turn a profit, Barrett said.

Neighbor Edward Walworth, of 8 Manning Ave., said neighbors mainly want to preserve the playground.

"And if the building is coming down, why not make it a two-acre park until making a little playground and a series of house lots?" Walworth said.

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Zack Lenhert's picture

"Developing the lot as a city

"Developing the lot as a city park could be expensive, according to city estimates — $120,000 for the demolition and $75,000 for fencing, landscaping and site work."

The demolition would need to be done regardless of if a park was built or the lots were sold to a developer. It is wrong IMO to include that $120,000 cost as an expense of building a park.


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