LEWISTON — The city is hoping the third time is the charm.

The City Council gave approval Tuesday for city staff to again apply for a U.S. Department of Environmental Protection grant to remove lead, asbestos and other contaminants at Bates Mill No. 5. 

Lewiston was not successful the last two times it applied, but Lincoln Jeffers, director of Economic and Community Development, said he is hopeful the city will receive funding this year. 

Mill No. 5 is the last and largest of the buildings at the Bates Mill Complex to be redeveloped, and the city currently has an option agreement with developer Tom Platz running through February 2021 to redevelop the site.  

Jeffers said this year the grant is worth up to $500,000, which is more than double its previous worth. If awarded the funds, the city will be required to produce a 20 percent match. 

“It’s our third time up to the plate on this,” Jeffers said Tuesday. “The bad news is we didn’t get them in the past, but the good news is it’s worth more.”

Jeffers said he was told that the city was extremely close to being awarded the grant last year. 

To be eligible for financing for redeveloping the building, the site’s environmental issues must be mitigated.

“If Mr. Platz secures tenants and decides to go forward with the redevelopment, one of the conditions for him to proceed would be that the city mitigate the known environmental issues in the mill,” Jeffers’ memo said.

He told councilors that even if the mill is not ultimately redeveloped, the city will still be responsible for the cleanup.  

According to a memo from Jeffers to the council, environmental studies of Mill No. 5 have determined the building has lead paint throughout the structure, asbestos underlayment in the roof and PCB-contaminated concrete in a small portion of the building where the hydroelectric turbines and switching gear are located.

The cost of the entire environmental cleanup has been estimated at about $1 million. 

The city’s application is due Jan. 31. 

City gets first look at 2020 Capital Improvement Plan

City officials got their first look at next year’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan on Tuesday, which includes projects ranging from a new 911 radio system to street and sidewalk maintenance.

In all, the capital projects are worth $20.9 million for fiscal 2020, but the list of projects will likely be whittled down by the time it is approved this spring. 

The first public hearing on the Capital Improvement Plan is Feb. 5. It is scheduled for adoption on Feb. 19. 

Among the most significant of the projects included in the proposal is a $5.5 million radio replacement project for L-A 9-1-1. Lewiston would split the project cost with Auburn. 

Also included in the plan is a citywide revaluation, which has been on the five-year capital plan for several years, but has ultimately been trimmed.

The CIP states the total cost is $114,000. The subject of a revaluation recently became part of the debate over the failed Lewiston-Auburn merger, as it would have been required if the two cities decided to merge.

Other items on the proposed CIP include considerable bond funds for the Public Works Department, the School Department and water and sewer projects. It includes about $4 million for highways, $1.4 million for upgrades at Lewiston’s parking garage and $2.6 million for street maintenance. 

City Administrator Ed Barrett told members of the City Council, Planning Board and Finance Committee he would like to see the city add $2.4 million in “contingency” funds for potential future algaecide treatments at Lake Auburn, given the recent presence of algae. 

The CIP also includes $642,000 in technology upgrades and $250,000 for the design of the Main Street fire substation. 

Barrett reminded officials that even after the Capital Improvement Plan is adopted, no funding is used until each project is approved.

Both the Planning Board and Finance Committee make recommendations to the City Council before councilors hold a final vote.

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An aerial view of Bates Mill No. 5 in Lewiston. (Sun Journal file photo)