A vacant city building at 85 Park St. in Lewiston will house members of several joint law enforcement agencies, including the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, which will lease space. Sun Journal file photo

LEWISTON — The City Council signed off on a lease agreement Tuesday that will allow law enforcement personnel from the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and other joint task forces to set up offices at the former Violations Bureau building on Park Street.

During a workshop last week, the council was briefed on the plan, which Lewiston Police Chief Brian O’Malley said is necessary due to inadequate space at the police station farther down Park Street.

The lease stipulates that the MDEA would pay $15,000 per year to lease roughly 2,100 square feet of renovated office space at 85 Park St., a city office building that was leased by the state until 2018.

Also operating in the space will be an officer assigned to the Central Maine Violent Crimes Task force, a collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives; and an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

During a news conference last week after a Walnut Street shooting incident, O’Malley said in order to combat drug-trafficking and violence issues in Lewiston, an FBI agent with the Safe Streets Task Force will also be assigned “permanently” to Lewiston to assist in the investigation.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the lease.

Registration

Also on Tuesday, the council unanimously approved changes to an application process for its rental registration program.

As the city readies its online application form for multi-family property owners, it streamlined the application to make it easier for landlords registering a large number of units.

The registration program, approved in October 2019 after a lengthy subcommittee process, requires owners of buildings with three or more units to register. The goal is for the city to have up-to-date contact information and other data on its housing stock.

The simplified language asks property owners to report the number of floors, number of units by bedroom, for example, one three-bedroom unit and two two-bedroom units, and the number of vacant units.

While the city opted to move forward with a non-fee-based system, if the city does not receive a registration application, it will potentially move forward with fines. Applications are due by March 1.

Energy and solar

The City Council also approved two new ordinances Tuesday that city staff hope will provide clarity as new telecommunication and energy infrastructure makes its way into Lewiston.

A new ordinance regulating above-ground fiber, telecommunication installations and utility poles in the public right of way passed first reading Tuesday, a move that city staff said will aid the permitting process as 5G internet comes online.

During an earlier workshop, City Administrator Ed Barrett said the new ordinance lays out the permitting process for telecommunications companies to install high-speed internet transmitters, along with preferences for where they should be located.

He said as larger cities are seeing 5G installations, which can place transmitters every 300 to 500 feet, there have been growing pains with placements and overall aesthetics.

He said that while allowing installation throughout the city is federally mandated, the ordinance says there is a preference that the transmitters be placed on existing utility poles, rather than new poles.

The land-use code was also amended Tuesday to give more clarity on solar energy systems, which staff said would make it easier for new installations to be approved.

City Planner Doug Greene previously said that multiple energy companies have approached Lewiston about developing large solar arrays, some between 10 and 20 acres.


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