Should Auburn pay for a costly new ELHS? Through my research for a series of articles in LA Metro Magazine commemorating Auburn’s 150th anniversary, I have seen that Auburn’s major investments in infrastructure — both public and private — have always taken Auburn to new levels of prosperity. Here are some lessons that history can offer:

• Settlers to water-powered Lewiston had no interest in “backwater” Auburn until private developers built a bridge (now the Longley) across the Androscoggin River in 1823. That brought commerce and growth to what is now Auburn’s downtown.

• With his own money, city “father” Edward Little built a reputable private academy, which later became a public high school for the city.

• Early Auburn taxpayers installed sidewalks, sewers, cobblestone and six grammar schools.

• Lewiston-Auburn bond holders funded a costly railroad spur connecting the Twin Cities to the eastern seaboard and Canada. While it was highly unusual for municipalities to finance major infrastructure projects, the line conducted a busy freight and passenger service and paid for itself.

• A century ago, industrialist W.S. Libbey staked his fortune on a power plant that would run both his mill and L-A’s electric trolley system, benefitting merchants and workers alike.

Once more, Auburn needs to make a paradigm shift, this time in education. A modern school and state-of-the-art facilities will attract new homeowners and businesses, which will offset the cost by adding to the tax base.

As has been said, if you build it, they will come.

Toby Haber-Giasson, Auburn

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