Lewiston firefighters do training exercises at vacant apartment buildings at Bartlett and Walnut streets Oct. 23. Community Concepts purchased the downtown properties and plans to redevelop the corner. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — The City Council approved a bid for demolition work at three downtown properties Tuesday, upholding an appeal from the city administrator following a controversial Finance Committee decision last week to deny the lowest bidder.

The vote was 6-1 to uphold Ed Barrett’s appeal and approve the bid by St. Laurent & Son of Lewiston.

The back-and-forth signals some internal friction between city officials and staff regarding the site and its proposed redevelopment, which is a key piece of the city’s Choice Neighborhood “transformation plan.”

The properties at 107 and 119 Bartlett St. and 42 Walnut St. are owned by LA Community Housing, a subsidiary of the Lewiston nonprofit Community Concepts. They are central to a recently approved plan that aims to redevelop housing and address other complex issues facing the Tree Streets neighborhood.

Last week, as Fire Department training got underway at the buildings, the Finance Committee voted 3-2 to deny acceptance of a bid from St. Laurent & Son of Lewiston for the demolition. The company submitted, by far, the lowest bid at $37,050 for the three properties.

The City Council voted 6-1 in August to allocate $135,000 for demolition work.


On Tuesday, City Administrator Ed Barrett and Finance Committee Chairman Denis Theriault sparred over the authority given the Finance Committee by charter.

In a memorandum to the council, Barrett said that during last week’s Finance Committee meeting, the committee did not discuss “the adequacy of the bidding process or any of the considerations set forth in the city’s purchasing policy that are to be used to determine the lowest responsible bidder,” and, instead, the discussion from the committee “focused on the nature of the project, not the price offered by or the qualifications of the low bidder.”

Barrett argued Tuesday that the Finance Committee’s failure to award the bid to the lowest bidder was outside its purview.

“The charter does not grant the Finance Committee veto power over decisions of the council,” Barrett said.

He said the Finance Committee was an administrative body, not a policymaking body like the council.

Theriault and City Councilor Michael Marcotte, who also serves on the Finance Committee, both voted against the bid last week.


Theriault told the council Tuesday that the committee was “not satisfied” with the information they’ve received so far regarding the LA Community Housing project and its financing. He said the Finance Committee initially tabled the city’s acquisition of the buildings due to a lack of information.

“When we review an agenda item in front of us, we ask any and all questions,” he said.

He said one of those questions is why the city is paying to demolish properties owned by a nonprofit. He said the city should instead give the demolition funds to LA Community Housing, with plans to recoup it.

Many of the questions during last week’s Finance Committee meeting were not related to the bid, but rather the nature of the redevelopment and how it will be paid for.

Marcotte told the council Tuesday that he voted against the bid due to concerns over using taxpayer money to redevelop the site into “subsidized housing,” which he said will result in more city costs for schools and other services.

The city, through the Choice Neighborhood process, has partnered with Community Concepts to apply for a federal grant that could bring between $10 million and $30 million in implementation funds to Lewiston. In order to have a strong application, ownership of the properties proposed for redevelopment is required, officials have said.


City staff and Community Concepts had planned for the demolition work to take place this fall, before cold weather sets in. Following the Fire Department training last week, landlord and neighbor Amy Smith said the demolition is even more important.

“The buildings look like Swiss cheese now,” she said Tuesday, referring to the aftermath of the training sessions. “We’re in a precarious situation now with these buildings.”

Councilor Jim Lysen, who also serves on the Finance Committee, argued the council “created policy” when it voted to appropriate the demolition funds.

“That’s what the council does,” he said. “We do not want these buildings through the winter.”

Councilor Zack Pettingill urged city staff to review the charter language regarding the Finance Committee’s authority, but said the buildings are a “safety issue.”

“There’s more at play here,” he said. “It’s disappointing it came to the council in this way.”

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