LEWISTON – It might be time to partially drain downtown canals and find another use for them, City Administrator Jim Bennett said.

“If we let them stop producing electricity, we don’t need to have them as steep or as deep as they are now,” Bennett said. “That might open them up for all kinds of other uses. We could add ponds and curves in places or fill them so that they’re shallower. Then we could skate on them or use them as central greenway through the downtown.”

Bennett said the canals, as well as the future life of downtown, will be topics at the third strategic planning meeting from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday at the Multi-Purpose Center, 145 Birch St.

The city has one plant that generates electricity near the end of the canal, behind Grimmel’s service station on Lisbon Street. The city used electricity from the plant to power street lights years ago, but hasn’t been able to for more than 10 years.

“We haven’t done that since the industry was deregulated,” Bennett said. “Now we sell it back to Florida Power and Light, and right now, we lose money on it. So it makes sense to stop using them for electricity.”

The city began work on a strategic plan in December. The project’s goal is to provide a long-term set of rationales for future decisions, from planning and zoning to economic growth and redevelopment.

City staff began by meeting with business and neighborhood groups, including the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce, land use groups like the Stanton Bird Club and the Androscoggin Land Trust, and downtown development and community service organizations.

The meetings are designed to bring interested parties together. The city hosted a first meeting in December to kick the process off and a second last month to discuss progress. Monday’s meeting is designed to focus on ways to redevelop the downtown.

People at Monday’s meeting will be asked to define the boundaries between downtown neighborhoods and talk about what they’d like to happen.

Bennett said he expects to have some drawings showing what the downtown could look like with shallower canals.

“It makes sense to look at the canals and the entire area around the river,” Bennett said. “We’re looking at better ways to incorporate those into the entire downtown better.”



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