This is a response to Elliott Epstein’s column “A requiem for Lewiston’s tenements”  (May 2).

I certainly did not relish those fires as a way to cleanse Lewiston of its “miscreant tenants.”

Since becoming mayor, I, along with Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonte, have repeatedly met with HUD officials, asking them for help in removing the city’s condemned buildings. In meeting after meeting, the latest was two weeks before the first fire, we warned them of the fire danger posed by these buildings — pointing out the risk to life and property to those living in the area.

After the first fire, I requested Lewiston Fire Chief Paul LeClair to survey the downtown area for abandoned buildings that were surrounded by occupied buildings that could not be readily seen from the street. Those buildings would then be targeted for demolition and increased police patrol. I feared that a fire in such a building in the early morning hours would lead to a loss of life and the destruction of multiple buildings.

My biggest concern was the loss of life and the physical and mental well-being of city employees. Budgets have greatly reduced city staff. The fires put a great strain on the staff, especially the social service staff.

At a news conference, I, not Assistant City Administrator Phil Nadeau, announced the hammer was coming down on landlords who failed to clean or secure their properties. The summons man is coming.

I have also set up a meeting which will include landlords and Pine Tree Legal in an attempt to resolve problems and make the area livable.

I further spoke with Gov. Paul LePage, who dispatched prisoners to Lewiston to clean up and limit the fire load in the area. That helped alleviate the problem better than the lazy liberal way of throwing cash at it.

Lastly, I have worked hard the last year and a half submitting legislation to help rid Lewiston of a few layabouts that unfortunately define this city. I will continue relentlessly on that quest.

Robert Macdonald, mayor, city of Lewiston

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