The Lewiston Planning Board this week debated four potential locations for a new Fire Department substation to replace the one on Sabattus Street. The city is looking at lots on Sabattus and North Temple streets, including the site of the former Jiffy Lube. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

This week, the Buzz is charged up.

Two years after it bought Electricity Maine’s parent company, Spark Energy is closing Electricity Maine’s Auburn office.

Spark Energy, out of Texas, bought Provider Power for $28 million in 2016. Since then, Provider Power has lost a suit for stealing trade secrets and faced criticism for costing customers millions of dollars with electricity prices that were initially below the standard offer and then rose above.

Spark spokeswoman Kira Jordan said the physical office will close; however, “we will continue to have employees in Maine. Most importantly, we will continue to provide our customers in Maine with the friendly customer service that they have come to expect from us.”

She declined further comment on how many employees the company had here and how many will be left.

It’s unclear how many customers Electricity Maine has in the state: The company filed a request with the Maine Public Utilities Commission in June to keep its sales, revenue and customer numbers confidential, saying it was “commercially sensitive” information, and the PUC agreed.

PUC spokesman Harry Lanphear said most competitive electricity providers make that same request.

New Main Street activity

The Lewiston Planning Board was busy this week.

First up: approving Dirigo Federal Credit Union’s $4 million project.

Dirigo, formerly known as Rainbow, plans to replace two smaller credit union buildings with a 9,635-square-foot, two-story structure at 381 Main St., according to Walsh Engineering Associates’s filings with the board. The parking lot will expand from 30 spaces to 34.

“They’re going to come back in the next month or two, I would guess, for approval of a temporary site for the next 12 months,” said Doug Greene, deputy director of planning and code enforcement.

New yet-to-be-determined activity

The Lewiston Planning Board also talked pros and cons of four potential sites for a new Fire Department substation to replace the one on Sabattus Street.

The candidates, according to information in a city memo:

• 55 North Temple St., 10 acres, which City Administrator Ed Barrett wrote was the staff’s and the consultant’s preferred site. The city has assessed that property at $98,450; the owner is asking $300,000.

• 151 North Temple St., adjacent to McMahon Elementary School. The city owns the property, but building there might require replacing a recreational field at a cost of $150,000 to $250,000 and building a retaining wall to minimize fill and wetland impact at $50,000.

• 118 to 124 Sabattus St., three parcels adding up to 2.05 acres, cumulatively assessed by the city at $199,370. Building there might trigger $150,000 in traffic control work.

• 895 Sabattus St., the location of the former Jiffy Lube, 1.22 acres assessed by the city at $176,200. Building there would require $50,000 in traffic lights or warning signals and depending on how firetrucks enter and exit, potentially $220,000 of additional work.

Greene said Planning Board members asked for additional details before weighing in with a pick.

“They debated things like the size of the proposed location, its proximity to residents, any impacts — they talked about all the different factors you’d want to consider when looking at a new fire station,” he said.

New documentary

Missed “The Growth of Whiting” short at the Maine International Film Festival earlier this month?

You can find the five-minute documentary on the Auburn farm online at Vimeo.

The film, by Colby College students Jenna DeFrancisco, James Lindberg and Dylan Shaw, focused on one way in which Whiting Farm is being used in its second life with John F. Murphy Homes, teaching life skills to students with autism.

“I loved those kids,” farm director Kim Finnerty said. “We spent a lot of time, they did a lot of video. It was beautifully done and I appreciated it immensely.”

Quick hits about business comings, goings and happenings. Have a Buzzable tip? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or [email protected]

A drawing submitted to the Lewiston Planning Board of the proposed Dirigo Federal Credit Union on Main Street.


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