D’oh! Go out to bid, man.

Even Homer Simpson knows that.

The Lewiston-Auburn Railroad Co. — co-owned by the cities of Lewiston and Auburn — is embarking on a highly expensive renovation of the former Grand Trunk railroad depot on Lincoln Street.

The renovation cost of $370,000 will be paid with public funds: $55,000 from the city-funded railroad company, $200,000 from a U.S. Department of Agriculture stimulus grant, and $115,800 from a city of Lewiston Community Development Block Grant.

A no-bid contract for the work had been given to Landry Construction in Lewiston, based on the company’s previous history with the railroad company and the board’s trust in Landry’s performance. Trouble is, the USDA requires all projects over $50,000 to go to public bid.

A staff member at the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council who works with the railroad board said the board was not aware of the USDA requirement to go to bid.

Double d’oh.

The LAEGC is well-versed in the bid process, and in basic common sense when spending public money. To suggest that no one among the many public and quasi-public officials involved in this project considered the need to bid a $370,000 contract is, well, simply cartoonish.

Jeers.

*

Jeers, too, to Lewiston city officials — who have combed through the charter with great intensity in recent years — for missing the charter requirement to post a special public notice when voting on bond packages.

When it convened in February, the City Council didn’t have the votes to approve bonding the $4.96 million Lincoln Street parking garage, which it is contractually obliged to build for developer Tom Platz as part of the 2004 Bates Mill exit strategy, so the topic was tabled to March. On March 2, the council voted to approve the funding, and ground was soon broken on garage construction.

Now, five months later, the council has been told the March 2 meeting wasn’t properly noticed to the public, so the vote was meaningless and the council must re-vote to re-approve the bonds when it convenes on Tuesday. It’ll have to be a rubber-stamp show of hands because the garage is very nearly built.

If the council doesn’t produce the minimum five votes to affirm the spending, what will it do?

Tear the garage down?

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Cheers to Michael J. Fiori, who made Clara Thibault’s wish come true on Tuesday.

Fiori, who owns Columbia Classic Cars in Winthrop, heard about Thibault’s wish to take a ride in a 1929 Packard to celebrate her 100th birthday, and motored his Packard to Canton to take Thibault for a spin.

It was tremendously generous and sweet of Fiori to take the time to drive Thibault down memory lane.

Thibault and her husband, a professional saxophonist, bought their prized Packard when they were newlyweds in Boston. He died many years ago, so the afternoon drive was more than bringing back the memory of a car. It brought back memories of a marriage.

That’s quite a splendid birthday gift.

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