LEWISTON — Renovated space at the Memorial Armory on Central Avenue might be the best home for senior citizen programs, councilors were told Tuesday.
Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett and School Superintendent Bill Webster told councilors that moving senior programs to the armory and making room for expanded prekindergarten programs at the Multi-Purpose Center was the least expensive option for dealing with future school space needs.
Barrett said his staff would work to make sure it was a good solution for seniors, too.
"The biggest issue with the armory has traditionally been concerns the seniors have raised about parking and access to the building, and conflicts between programs," Barrett said.
Plans would call for adding 60 parking spaces around the building — that would involve changing Vale Street to one-way and adding angle-in parking along Vale Street and Central Avenue, and paving the area in front of the building.
The city would also add an elevator for seniors, a senior entrance on the Vale Street side and soundproofing for the rooms.
"I think we'd want to get the seniors involved to help design the layouts and also to design all the amenities — the carpeting, the paint and all the things that would make it more appealing," Barrett said.
Councilors are expected to make a decision about the space at the next meeting, Jan. 24. That meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
School officials in September said that expected growth in the number of elementary school students citywide calls for some expansion. They've recommended taking over the entire Birch Street Multi-Purpose Center building as a new, bigger Longley School.
The Longley School and the Multi-Purpose Center currently share the building. Multi-Purpose Center programs include adult education classes and meeting space for the city's senior citizen groups.
The previous City Council considered purchasing the Knights of Columbus building at 150 East Ave. and making it the new center for seniors' programs.
That could require the city to buy the building from the Knights of Columbus, Barrett said Tuesday. Combined with renovation work on the building, it could push the cost to $600,000.
Barrett said the Knights of Columbus plan would cost the city $106,600 each year.
A third plan called for putting students in modular classrooms. That would cost the city about $80,000 each year, Barrett said. Using the armory would cost the city an additional $30,000 each year.
At least one councilor said he was sold.
"I think it's a good move," Ward 1's John Butler said. "We own the property. We can improve the building and make it senior-friendly, we can put elevators in and handle the parking and turn over the Multi-Purpose Center to the School Department that really needs it."
But Norm Bissonnette, of 36 Reservoir Ave., said it was a bad idea. He urged the schools to make due with the buildings and space they have.
"All we are doing is creating a daycare for people that don't take care for their own children," Bissonnette said. "We give them a golden spoon to put in their mouth and say they don't have to do anything. Well, as taxpayers, we're fed up and that school system had better start looking."