Settling fate of Bates Mill No. 5 tops 2013 to-do list

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LEWISTON — Demolishing the Bates Mill No. 5 would be one of the biggest projects on the city’s 2013 to-do list, City Administrator Ed Barrett told councilors Tuesday night.

Barrett presented a list of capital projects to a joint meeting of the City Council, the Lewiston Planning Board and the Lewiston Finance Committee.

All told, the plan outlines $145 million in road and building construction, renovations and equipment purchases over the next five years, with $62.5 million spent from city sources — general fund money or bond issues. The rest would be paid with state or federal revenues.

For 2013, the plan calls for continuing the city’s effort to demolish old tenements downtown, new financial department software and work at the city’s Franklin Pasture athletic complex.

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“The big number that is up there is $2.5 million for the Bates Mill demolition project,” Barrett said.

City councilors have come down in favor of doing away with the saw tooth-roofed building at Main and Lincoln streets, despite community efforts to preserve the building and find new uses.

The building is owned by the city, but FPL Energy Maine Hydro/Next Era Energy own the canals that run alongside and through the building.

Barrett said those complications could make the demolition more expensive.

“That’s something we will be talking about more over the next couple of months,” Barrett said. “There are complications to that project and we will need to do some negotiations. We will have to decide how we want to proceed — if we want to proceed — with that project in the coming year.”

The capital plan is not a binding spending plan but a to-do list that staff will use to help prepare the fiscal year 2013-14 budget, Barrett said.

“It’s not a commitment; the commitments come later,” Barrett said. “It’s just a plan, but it does give us some parameters for moving forward.”

A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 5 during the City Council’s regular meeting.

Councilors are scheduled to vote on the plan at their Feb. 19 meeting and would vote to approve a $7 million bond sometime in June.

Barrett said the city’s effort to clean up downtown tenements cleared 19 buildings in 2012. The city has about $200,000 of the $650,000 budgeted in 2011 and 2012.

“We do need to continue doing that, and should probably continue for the next couple of years,” Barrett said. “We need to do what we can to eliminate eyesore properties.”

The capital plan also calls for Lewiston to pay $40,000 as its share for two new buses for the Citylink bus system. Auburn would pay another $40,000 and the Federal Transit Administration would pay the remaining $320,000 for those buses.

The plan also calls for building a $450,000 facility to wash large vehicles, $200,000 for continued renovations at the Lewiston Memorial Armory, road projects on Walnut Street, Main Street, sidewalks along College Street, general road maintenance, street lights and Public Works equipment. All told the city would spend about $11 million on capital projects.

The School Department would spend about $666,500 in capital projects at the Franklin Pasture — especially at the Don Roux Field and the track surface — the Martel, Geiger and Lewiston High school buildings.

According to Barrett, the city has $167 million in outstanding debt as of Dec. 31, 2012. That includes $58 million for the city, $34.6 million for the schools and $39.5 million for Lewiston’s water, sewer and storm water utilities.

Debt payments, about $8.5 million in 2014, amount to about 13.1 percent of the city’s operating budget, he said.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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