Decision cost city

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This letter is in response to the Sun Journal editorial March 2 concerning Bates Mill No. 5.

As a former city councilor, I spent the better part of two years learning about the building, its history and its condition, and was ultimately asked to help decide its fate.

The recent decision will cost the city as much as $70,000 in a payout to the company scheduled to do the work, due to the decision to renege on a valid signed contract by the city, approved by the finance committee and the council.

The citizens of this community deserve to know the other costs they may incur by not moving forward on demolition.

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First, the next highest bidder was almost $400,000, or 50 percent higher, than the winning bid. The original bid was also much lower than anticipated due to a poor economy and the time of year the work would be done. The winning bidder was interested in work to keep his equipment and manpower busy during what is normally a slow time of year, thus he significantly reduced his bid.

Given the current council’s treatment and refusal to honor the contract, it stands to reason that should the matter be reviewed again, any bidder might be more inclined to submit a higher bid based on time of year and the economy.

And as each day goes by with no maintenance or upkeep of the building (including not heating it), the chances become greater that a major catastrophe will occur. It’s not “if,” but “when.”

Keeping in mind that a private company has a power plant in one corner of the building that would have been spared from demolition and, in fact, improved by the demolition — what happens if such a catastrophe occurs? It seems likely the city would be liable for damages to the power plant.

In addition to the power plant, any major collapse could result in loss or weakening of the canal wall structure or to other buildings owned privately. It’s not difficult to imagine a building that is 100 years old and not maintained could become a major hazard waiting to occur. The engineering reports by the Mill Task Force clearly pointed those flaws out several years ago and nothing has been done to stabilize or correct the errors.

Taxpayers of Lewiston should be concerned that the cost of not demolishing this building far outweighs any potential gains. The city has tried for a number of years to market the property and had no takers.

Recent tax credits are not as valuable, due to the higher cost of construction to be in compliance with the historic preservation standards.

At best, this decision has cost taxpayers $70,000. But, in reality, is much, much worse.

Robert Reed, Lewiston

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