Lewiston CIP includes first of fire station replacements

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LEWISTON — The city’s proposed five-year capital improvement plan features some familiar high-profile projects. 

Included in the running list for next year is the first of three planned replacements of all Fire Department substations, as well as the second phase of the Lincoln Street parking garage — but the projects could ultimately be deferred again. 

The plan — a to-do list of city purchases — is being vetted by city officials leading up to the City Council’s vote on Feb. 20. The list could look a lot trimmer by the time next year’s budget is approved this spring. 

Many of the projects listed in a single fiscal year are often deferred based on the cost and availability of funds. The new plan proposes $23 million on projects in fiscal 2018-19, and $130 million over the next five years. 

According to City Administrator Ed Barrett, approving the plan does not mean every project will be funded. In most years, he said, “the total amount in the first year of the CIP is reduced by the point that the council eventually makes (funding) decisions.”

The second phase of the Lincoln Street parking garage project, totaling $11.2 million, was included in this year’s plan, but the project was deferred for a year and split into two fiscal years. At a Planning Board meeting Monday, officials could make that recommendation again.

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The garage project is tied to the future redevelopment of Bates Mill No. 5, and the agreement between the city and developer Platz Associates ends later this month. The City Council will take up that discussion Tuesday.

The proposed plan includes $732,000 toward the garage next year, and $10.4 million for the bulk of the work in 2020. 

Barrett said the initial funding is for architectural and engineering costs. But he said the total cost of the project will most likely be high enough to require a voter referendum prior to any borrowing.

Following a study last year that recommended replacing all of Lewiston’s fire substations, engineering costs were included in the plan. The updated plan includes $3.3 million for the first of the projects: the Sabattus Street station. 

The three substations, on Lisbon Road and Sabattus and Main streets, were built between 1950-52, and evaluations have shown the buildings to be inadequate for today’s fire needs. 

The former Fire Department substation on Lincoln Street was closed in 1996, and was marked for demolition before a developer recently stepped in and purchased the property

The City Charter requires that the capital improvement program be prepared annually, reviewed by the Planning Board, Finance Committee and City Council, and be adopted by the City Council at least four months prior to the end of the current fiscal year, June 30. 

Prior to its discussion Monday, the Planning Board already listed the fire station and parking garage projects as concerns. A Planning Board memo states that the garage project should be deferred “another year or two,” and that there were concerns with the cost and design of the fire substation.

Other projects slated for next year include a $975,000 fire engine replacement, a $1 million combined sewer overflow project at the Franklin Pasture property, $2.7 million in street maintenance, and $1.3 million in municipal vehicles and equipment. 

Last year, the Finance Committee said it was concerned over the city’s level of debt, as well as for capital items that appear on the CIP each year.

At the time, Chairman Robert Reed listed the Lincoln Street parking garage, the Fire Department substations and road improvements as items that would add “significant debt” to the city — the same projects included again this year. 

At the start of 2018, Lewiston’s total outstanding debt was roughly $199 million, although a large part of the School Department’s $83 million will be reimbursed by the state. 

The City Council has previously held a workshop and a public hearing to review the plan. No one from the public spoke during the hearing last week. 

The plan is available to view online on the city’s website.

arice@sunjournal.com 

Where the money is coming from in Lewiston’s proposed CIP: 

Area FY2019 FY2019-FY2023
City bond issue $13,006,570

$62,691,870

City operating budget $281,822 $681,822
School operating budget $5,178  $5,178
School bond issue $2,089,250 $11,914,250
Water bond issue $2,000,000 $21,750,000
Water operating budget $500,600

$2,124,600

Sewer operating budget $230,200  $840,200
Sewer bond issue $2,715,000 $15,495,000
Sewer impact fees $40,000  $80,000
Storm water operating budget $103,000 $488,450
Storm water bond issue $2,540,000 $13,988,000
Total  $23,511,620  $130,059,370

A concept design for a replacement Lewiston fire substation was provided to city officials last year. The first of the projects is included in next year’s Capital Improvement Plan. 

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