LaBonte: Auburn deserves say in Lewiston canal deal

AUBURN — Mayor Jonathan LaBonte says his city should have some say in Lewiston's plan to take over its downtown canals.

LaBonte said he has been looking over 1984 agreements between the two cities and Central Maine Power Co. on water rights and property taxes on the electricity-generating Monty Hydro station at the head of the falls.

"Nothing that I have yet uncovered in those documents allows Lewiston to unilaterally pull out of that agreement and either provide tax-increment financing or to release the water rights without some sort of compensation for the city of Auburn," LaBonte said at Monday's Auburn City Council meeting.

Lewiston is pursuing a deal to take control of the downtown canal system from NextEra Energy. It would include all of NextEra's water-generating assets along the canal — including those under Bates Mill No. 5, the saw-tooth-roofed building along Main Street.

In exchange, Lewiston would close its last generator — at the end of the Upper Canal and just south of Locust Street — at the Upper Androscoggin Generating Station and surrender its federal license to generate electricity.

Lewiston also plans to create a tax-increment finance district around NextEra's Monty Hydro facility and the Deer Rips Dam. The company plans $2 million in work there and the city's TIF proceeds would be used to pay for repairs at dams, weirs and gates along the canal.

Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett said Tuesday he was unaware of LaBonte's claims and declined to comment until he had talked with LaBonte.

LaBonte said he was hoping to meet with Barrett and Lewiston's staff and planned to report back to the Auburn City Council.

"We certainly have legal hands in this arrangement, and I want to make sure our council has the most up-to-date information," LaBonte said.

His claim dates back to 1979, when CMP, Lewiston and Auburn promoted competing plans to build an electricity-generating dam at the Great Falls. The state got involved in 1984 and helped the three develop a tax-sharing agreement.

As part of that agreement, CMP was allowed to start building the Monty hydroelectric facility in 1987, replacing the city of Lewiston-owned plant at the head of the canal. CMP agreed to provide 3.2 million kilowatt-hour credits to the city for streetlights and water pumping and would pay property taxes on the facility. Auburn was given a 17½ percent share of those taxes.

The cities also took control of the Upper Androscoggin facility and its three generators. All have since failed.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Michael Hobbs's picture

Where is this located, that's

Where is this located, that's right Lewiston, not Auburn. You don't see Lewiston every time Auburn tries to do anything say "Hey, we want to have input in this." This has nothing to do with the city of Auburn or the Androscoggin Land Trust, so why LaBonte wants input is rather interesting. Jealousy, maybe?

And yes I did read the document that was presented. No where in that document does it mention these generators that Lewiston would be taking over, NextEra company or if Lewiston could potentially take over the canal. So this document really holds no water.

Dan Bilodeau's picture

location location location

Mr. Hobbs,

I disagree if you think this has nothing to do with Auburn. For example, If your remarks were broadly taken for granted you wouldn't have inexpensive drinking water. In fact, Lewiston would have been forced to treat the Androscoggin River water for decades now. You do know that Lake Auburn and the surrounding "Community Forest" is where Lewiston gets its water.

Looking at this from a "community" perspective would be better for the process. Regardless of what you and I think, it comes down to the original governing documents and those gentlemen in suits that get paid to promote and then settle conflicts.

Dan

Zack Lenhert's picture

Auburn jealous of

Auburn jealous of Lewiston?

How come so many girls I know from Lewiston when they went to college they told people they were from Auburn?

"This has nothing to do with the city of Auburn". If Auburn was receiving revenue from the deal with NextEra, than it DOES have something to do with Auburn.

Jason Theriault's picture

I'm no lawyer

I'm no lawyer, so take whatever as a layperson's interpretation, but I looks like that would cost Auburn some revenue, which is what I think the problem is. Since Auburn gets a piece of property taxes on NextEra's facilities, Lewiston can't unilaterally change stuff around. It looks like they want to reduce the amount NextEra pays in taxes in exchange for work on damns. They also plan on taking possession of the canals, which would reduce what NextEra pays in taxes, which also lowers Auburn's cut.

BTW - Here is the original story:
http://www.sunjournal.com/news/lewiston-auburn/2012/04/04/lewiston-counc...

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