LEWISTON — Money set aside to help build a wheelchair-accessible playground downtown will instead help pay for the construction of a small amphitheater and build river access at Simard-Payne Memorial Park, councilors agreed Tuesday.

Councilors voted 4-3 to put $75,000 — originally allocated to help build a playground at Marcotte Park — toward Riverfront Island improvements.

Councilors Michael Lachance, Leslie Dubois and Shane Bouchard all voted against the change. Lachance said he favored simply erasing the debt and not using the money at all.

“Given my concerns with the budget coming up and expending more funds on this, I’d move to rescind the bond authorization,” Lachance said.

Instead, the majority of councilors approved the change.

Councilors approved the plan to build the wheelchair-accessible playground on the triangle-shaped park near the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in 2012.


The park is located where Jefferson, Caron and Birch streets meet. Lewiston won grants in 2012 to build a river-themed playground there, with wheelchair-accessible walls, playground equipment and drawings.

Total costs for the park were estimated at $538,565. Lewiston won grants worth $60,000 in total to build the playground, and councilors agreed to set aside $75,000 in a bond issue. Local volunteers were expected to raise the balance — more than $400,000.

That has not yet happened.

Councilor Nate Libby was one of the councilors that approved the playground and said he was reluctant to let it go.

“We had a small group that worked on this and submitted several grant applications for this, and we were very disappointed that not a single one of those grants were awarded,” Libby said.

He urged the city to keep the playground designs ready and to hold on to grants the city has received in hopes it can be built someday. He agreed that the $75,000 should be used, however.


“I feel the time is just not right for this effort to continue,” Libby said. “I agree the Riverfront Island work is progressing more slowly than a lot of us would like. So I’m fine with rethinking a prior decision of the council.”

The current plan for Simard-Payne Memorial Park is to provide a harder surface at the river’s edge to serve as a performance space. Plans call for a small stage with some kind of simple covering, such as an awning or a tent. It would be surrounded by terraced rows of grass, using the site’s natural terrain. The stage would face away from the river, with spectators able to look past the stage to the river and Auburn’s Riverwalk.

City Administrator Ed Barrett said the city had set aside $330,000 for that work. The lowest bid came higher than that, at $384,000.

He said staff is working to trim at least $40,000 from the Simard-Payne Memorial Park work and some of the $75,000 allocated for the Marcotte Park work would make up the difference. Staff should present a work plan to the Finance Committee next week and work could begin next spring if they approve.


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