LEWISTON — City officials Tuesday got a first look at next year’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan, which includes $32.8 million worth of projects. They range from a new Main Street fire substation to Lewiston Armory renovations tied to the LA Maples women’s basketball team.

The annual plan, required by city charter, is an outline for future construction projects and other capital expenses. The City Council held a joint workshop Tuesday with members of the Planning Board and Finance Committee to discuss the plan, which proposes a $13.2 million increase in bond requests for fiscal 2023.

Big-ticket items include roughly $1 million for environmental cleanup at Bates Mill No. 5, which was deferred from last year’s plan; $1.5 million for a new revenue collection system for the city’s municipal garages; and $5.7 million for the Main Street fire substation and $2.9 million for the armory improvements.

The plan, which also funds annual infrastructure spending like Public Works vehicles and road and sidewalk maintenance, must be adopted by March 1, but won’t ultimately be funded until the fiscal 2023 budget is approved in June.

City Administrator Heather Hunter said Tuesday that because the proposed bonding exceeds a city rule that would cap the spending at $7.4 million, any bonding over that level would require five affirmative votes by the council.

Officials discussed whether now is the time to fund a significant number of the projects, and considered factors like high construction costs and historically low interest rates on borrowing.

The Bates Mill cleanup funding, at just over $1 million, is only a part of the projected $4.7 million project that city officials hope will be mostly be funded through federal grants. Last April, the City Council approved a final, five-year agreement with developer Tom Platz for the redevelopment of the historic mill, but the environmental cleanup is considered a key stepping stone.

Hunter said the new ticketing system for parking garages is needed as the city’s software is out of date and can no longer can be upgraded. She said prior to the pandemic, the faulty system played a role in declining use of the garages, with incidents of payment attempts not working, incorrect charges, or customers getting “locked in the garage.”

She said the pandemic further impacted use of the garages, but the city could get back to its pre-COVID revenue stream of about $800,000 annually if it funded the new ticketing system.

The Main Street fire station is the second of three substation replacement projects planned on a biennial basis.

There were limited questions from officials during the workshop Tuesday, but Planning Board member Shanna Cox, who is president of the LA Metro Chamber of Commerce, brought up the long-debated issue of a citywide revaluation in Lewiston.

She asked whether it was an option to expedite the process in order to implement a revaluation sooner, lowering a property tax rate in Lewiston that many have argued is hurting economic development.

The city has been using the annual Capital Improvement Plan to partially fund the $575,000 revaluation over a number of years, but the revaluation itself has not yet begun.

The issue became a point of contention during budget talks in 2021. Lewiston has not conducted a full revaluation since 1988, and the city values homes at about 76% of their full market value. City finance staff told officials in May that if Lewiston properties were assessed at “full value,” the tax rate would be closer to $24 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, rather than the current rate of about $28.

Hunter said the city is first moving away from its “antiquated tax software,” which is expected to be in place by July 1. But, she said, the revaluation will “not be able to be performed faster than a five-year period.”

The first public hearing on the Capital Improvement Plan is Feb. 1, with recommendations from the Planning Board and Finance Committee due later that month.

According to the memo, the city’s total debt is $205 million, but $43 million of it is tied to new school construction, which is paid by the state.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.