LEWISTON — As about 20 children played at the Pettingill School playground Tuesday afternoon, Bill Cartmel videotaped adults who said the space should stay.
“There are so many kids here all the time," young mother Angela Lenhert said. "I can see from my window. There are plenty of other areas in town they could turn into housing.”
During a workshop Tuesday, the Lewiston City Council will hear a proposal for a developer to tear down the closed Pettingill Elementary School and build five single-family homes.
The council will take no action on Oct. 30, and will likely vote on what to do in November. Tuesday's workshop will be at 6 p.m. in the city hall council chambers.
Filmmaker Cartmel, also known as Bill Maroldo, a former producer and reporter for the Maine Public Broadcasting Networks' show, “MaineWatch,” lives on College Street across from the former school.
Saying there are few places for neighborhood children to play, residents want the city to follow the Lewiston School Committee's recommendation of turning the property into a park and playground, he said. Cartmel is capturing those comments and plans to show the film to councilors next month.
“City officials don't recognize how much this park is used, how important this playground is to the neighborhood,” Cartmel said. “We're not asking the city to spend money and buy property to build a park.” The space already exists, he said.
“We parents of Pettingill School put this playground in," he said. "We're saying, 'Maintain it.' We realize the building has to go.”
The city has an opportunity to preserve open space, he said. “Once homes are built, it's too late."
Betty Fake, 86, said the community needs a playground. Her grandchildren have used the playground. “I would hope my great-grandchildren will come,” she said.
Jane Jawor, 44, a mother of three, said her family uses the playground often. “We don't need any more houses.”
Claire Duplissis, 62, said five houses seem like “quite a bit. It's too bad to take the whole area for homes. I don't see why they couldn't compromise and put in a couple of homes and develop a little park.”
Thelma Lever, 83, said she'd like to see the playground stay, “and maybe make a little library and clubhouse or game room for the kids.”
Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett said the city has placed the property on the market and has received two proposals.
One, which is not being considered, is for multi-family apartments. That would create too many units and would not blend with the single-family neighborhood.
The second proposal, which is being considered, would be to tear down the school and build five single-family homes, “more in keeping with the nature of the neighborhood,” Barrett said. That proposal is from St. Laurent and Sons contractors.
One possibility he's working on, Barrett said, is to build five single homes and keep the playground. There's enough room for that, he said.
As proposed, the city would give St. Laurent the property and receive no money, but the contractor would demolish the school, saving the city $100,000.
It also would put land back on property-tax rolls and save the city from maintaining a park, Barrett said.
Ways have to be found to keep costs down, he said. “We're stressed these days with keeping up with the basics.”
The City Council will have to consider whether to turn the property into a park and playground or build homes and save money, Barrett said.