LEWISTON — The Twin Cities’ bus service, Citylink, will buy three 16-year-old buses from the Greater Portland Metropolitan Transit District for the price of tires to fortify its fleet.

Councilors from Lewiston and Auburn agreed to buy the three buses for a total of $6,000 — plus the cost of adding Citylink’s purple logo — at a joint meeting Tuesday in Lewiston City Hall.

Phil Nadeau, chairman of the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee and Lewiston’s deputy city administrator, said the buses will give operators a bit of breathing room after a series of maintenance problems sidelined most of Citylink’s fleet. Citylink reduced service earlier this year, from one-hour round trips on most routes to two hours, because of the lack of working buses.

Nadeau said the transit authority is considering multiple solutions.

“We are asking your support of a multi-prong strategy that will involve buying used buses, leasing buses, mid-life overhauls and maybe even someday buying a new bus,” Nadeau said.

Citylink has operated the nine-route bus service in Lewiston-Auburn with 10 buses. Two 2002 Thomas/SLF buses were removed from service permanently in September because of problems with rust and corrosion. Four Blue Bird buses have been out of service awaiting parts.

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Two of the Blue Bird buses returned to service Tuesday, Nadeau said.

That left three 2011 Gillig buses in service. Nadeau said the three 1997 buses Citylink is buying from the Greater Portland bus agency are the same brand.

“Gillig still supports these buses with parts,” Nadeau said. “They are 16 years old and they are still supporting it. That’s the kind of business we are dealing with, and it’s refreshing to not have to turn over heaven and Earth to find replacement parts.”

Councilors agreed to let the transit committee use money from a $160,000 fund to buy the used buses. That fund is set aside for the future purchase of buses.

But councilors said buying the buses is a short-term solution, and they want to be sure of having long-term efforts to keep it from happening again.

“It sounds like to me that we are in trouble, and I’m not sure if we can continue to afford what we have,” Auburn Councilor Leroy Walker said. “I’d like to see a better plan than this, so we know where we’re going for the next five years.”

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Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald said he was concerned that the Twin Cities were offering too much bus service for the area.

“Here, we don’t have Portland’s congestion and people here are used to using their cars,” Macdonald said. “That should come into play as we decide what kind of transit service we make.”

Macdonald said expanding bus service should wait until there is a need. Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte disagreed.

“If Lewiston and Auburn are going to compete for talent and compete for empty-nesters who are looking for a place they can retire and be actively involved, we have to look at what our competitors are doing,” LaBonte said.

“We can’t expect people to move here and then say, ‘Once enough of you get here, then we’ll provide the amenities you are looking for,’ he said. “People are choosing places that offer those.”

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