LEWISTON – City officials say they’ve reached a tentative deal with a Main Street property owner who protested negotiations by putting disabled school buses on the disputed site.

The city will pay property owner Rick Hollis $240,000 for his empty lots at 109, 103 and 95 Main St. Another $10,000 will go into an escrow account, according to City Administrator Jim Bennett. Hollis will get that money if he signs a waiver agreeing not to sue the city, if he sues and later drops the suit or if he sues and wins.

The city gets the money if Hollis sues and loses the lawsuit.

Hollis’ business, Lewiston Radiator Works, was destroyed by a natural gas explosion in January. The city had been eyeing the property, since it borders the Bates Mill Building No 5. The city began negotiating with Hollis in the spring after discussing taking the property by eminent domain. They agreed to a $250,000 sale price in June.

But the deal broke down last week. Hollis said the city wanted him to agree not to sue the city in exchange for the $250,000. The city refused to release the money and Hollis retaliated by buying two disabled Bluebird school buses and having them towed to the lot.

The buses were adorned with Jolly Roger pirate flags and spray-painted with “Screwiston” on one side and “Welcome to Lewiston” on the other and held signs warning about future gas-line explosions. The buses were visible to rush-hour traffic along Main Street, just north of the city’s new gateway, Raymond Park.

Hollis removed the buses on Thursday, saying he would bring them back and add a third if he could not reach a deal with the city.

Hollis could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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