New Auburn residents plead for city attention

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AUBURN – New Auburn’s problems are symbolized by the lawn chairs paving crews sat in last summer, according to Deanna Chapman.

Chapman told Mayor John Jenkins and a crowd of about 50 that the city needs to take New Auburn much more seriously. As an example, she told about crews filing holes along South Main Street last summer that spent part of their time sitting in lawn chairs, she said.

“It looked like they were wasting tax dollars,” she said.

Public Works Director Bob Belz admitted it was true. The workers were waiting for deliveries of tar and asphalt before they could continue their work.

“They thought they were being efficient and comfortable, but they looked terrible,” he said. He received complaints and made the workers get rid of the chairs.

But Chapman insisted that lawn chairs should never have been an option for the employees.

“Have them rake leaves while they’re waiting for the tar,” she said. She’s afraid New Auburn doesn’t get the city’s best efforts and called for a master plan devoted to the area and work repairing the failing network of sidewalks.

It was the first in a series of neighborhood meetings, and most in the audience echoed Chapman. Jenkins and City Manager Pat Finnigan had prepared notes on a few topics, but never used them.

Instead, they let the citizens talk, ask questions and plead for services. Most urged the city to devote money to repairing New Auburn’s sidewalks, fixing potholes and planning for area’s growth.

“If we don’t do something soon, I think we’ll see a transition in the area that we don’t want to see,” said Jonathan LaBonte of 41 Third St. He complained that residents stop caring if they think the city doesn’t care.

“I have to clear up trash in front of my place every morning,” he said. “People don’t care. They just throw their trash anywhere.”

It doesn’t have to be that way, he said. New Auburn has a boat launch into the Androscoggin River, acres of wooded area and open space and an inviting downtown. It needs attention, however.

Others had more specific requests. Marjorie Lizotte of Riverside Drive asked for street lights along her stretch of road.

“Do you have any idea what it’s like to live in that pitch black?” she asked. The area had streetlights about 30 years ago, she said, but they were removed and never replaced. She worries about drivers along the road.

City staffers wrote down the comments and answered what they could. Public Works Director Belz said staff does have some road work scheduled along South Main Street this year. Plenty of other Auburn roads need paving work, however, and the city has a limited budget. Paving priorities and budgets are determined by city councilors, he said.

Jenkins promised to follow up on any questions left unanswered at future council meetings. He was pleased with the turnout.

“I think it shows that people are hungry for this,” Jenkins said. “The people want to connect to their government.”

The series continues in two weeks with a Ward 4 meeting in the Great Falls Performing Arts Center.

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