LEWISTON – Saying they were trying to make the best of a bad situation, councilors Tuesday approved a $1 million sale of the Androscoggin Bank Colisee. The vote was 5-2.

“Investing all that money like we’ve done, and then turning around and selling it for less than we’ve invested is a lot like running your fingernails over a chalkboard,” Ward 1 Councilor Tom Peters said. “It grates me. I don’t like it at all, but at the same time if it’s going to cost me a half-million a year to stay there, I can’t do that.”

The deal transfers ownership of the Colisee to Veazie-based ice rink company Firland Management and its president, Jim Cain. According to the deal, Firland will begin paying the city $50,000 per year in 2013 and then $100,000 per year from 2023 through 2028. The deal also gives Firland until April 2009 to officially assume ownership.

But councilors said Tuesday they wanted some better guarantees from the company, and emerged from an executive session to add a collateral agreement to the contract. Cain has until noon Friday to come up with $250,000 in collateral to guarantee his company’s side of the deal.

“If he can’t do that, the deal does not go forward and we will have to figure out how we are going to manage this facility,” Peters said.

According to terms of the deal, Firland would continue to honor the contract with the Lewiston Maineiacs semiprofessional hockey team. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team will begin the sixth year of its 15-season contract this fall.

Much of the arrangement depends on working out an agreement for a second ice rink and locking in a contract with the Lewiston Auburn Youth Hockey League, officials said. Company officials have also promised increased attention on community events, including hockey, free skating and possibly figure-skating classes.

Second ice

The city agreed to provide a $3 million loan to build the second surface, but City Administrator Jim Bennett said that would be an expensive alternative for Firland.

He expects the company can get a better loan with a lower interest rate privately, but wanted the city’s backing just in case.

“He believes his success depends on a successful agreement with the youth hockey, and that depends on building a second ice surface,” Bennett said. “It’s that important to the deal.”

LAYHC Treasurer Dan Chasse said the local youth league has an agreement in principle with Firland and has until April 2009 to settle a written contract.

The Colisee will continue to pay fees to the city under the storm water utility,

Bennett said, about $18,000 per year. Firland would owe property taxes to the city in September 2009 if the two sides settle the deal by April 1, 2009.

The deal ends the city’s subsidy of the ice arena, which topped out at $488,000 last year. It does not erase the $5.7 million in debt the city has accrued since 2004 to renovate and improve the facility.

That proved too much for two councilors. Both Bob Reed and Nelson Peters said they couldn’t vote for the deal, and wound up as the dissenters in a 5-2 approval.

“In the end, we are getting less than 10 cents on every $1 we put in, and I can’t accept that,” Reed said. He suggested the city try to trim the subsidy, spending less to manage the arena.

“This may be the best deal we have on the table right now,” Ward 2’s Nelson Peters said. “The problem is, we have too few deals on the table.”

Most of the 20 people attending Tuesday’s meeting shared that sentiment.

Joseph Roy of 9 Venise Ave. told councilors he thought offering the loan was a bad idea.

“It just prolongs our investment,” he said. “We just need to get out.”

Former City Councilor Norm Rousseau said the deal gave away too much.

“This isn’t a sale,” Rousseau said. “It’s a desperation thing.”

But Ward 4 Councilor Denis Theriault said the deal was the best that could be expected.

“We’re standing here tonight trying to fix this problem, and it’s a problem we didn’t create,” Theriault said. “We’re trying to fix somebody else’s screw-up.”

The city first began looking for buyers for the Colisee in 2007, and received one bid from the youth hockey league. Bennett said that deal involved changing the Colisee’s deal with the Lewiston Maineiacs, something the hockey team was unwilling to do.

Bennett said the city received one other offer to purchase the Colisee, other than the Firland bid. Under that deal, the city would have paid the buyer $500,000 to take over ownership of the ice rink.

Lightning strikes

Tuesday’s meeting was scheduled to be shown live on Great Falls TV, but a downtown lightning strike knocked out the city’s cable TV connection. City Clerk Kathy Montejo said the meeting was recorded and Great Falls TV will air the meeting at 7 p.m. Friday.


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