By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Lewiston is currently facing a crisis, a crisis that cannot be solved overnight. It’s a crisis that community officials will and must deal with for the next several years—lead paint.
Our goal is to become a lead-free community. And we will!
The lead issue has been around for decades. Lewiston is a city of numerous vintage buildings. Unlike when used to describe a fine wine, “vintage” in this case describes an endless money pit. Buildings full of lead paint are in need of costly removal. To state it more simply: Ouch!
But wait! That sound you hear coming from the nightly evening news is the cavalry, a.k.a. the Environmental Protection Agency, riding to our rescue. Let’s hope it’s not the 7th Cavalry being led by George Armstrong Custer.
I’m sorry to be so cynical, but in my four-plus years as mayor, I have found that dealing with federal bureaucracy is like talking to a wall with the equivalent results. I am hoping and praying that this time we will see positive results.
But every day that passes places many of our children closer to the point of no return from the effects of lead poisoning. We have created a Lewiston health committee to look into this problem and give us direction in order to decrease and hopefully rid our city of this scourge.
As you read this we will hopefully have had our first meeting. Lewiston has a greatly unappreciated staff of knowledgeable professionals in our Code Enforcement Department. Over the last week, we brainstormed the problem; in the fall, we will be introducing legislation designed to correct it.
Many of our landlords expect to take a big monetary hit. Many landlords may walk away from their buildings and abandon them due to the overwhelming cost needed to bring their buildings up to code. We are currently working with Senator Susan Collins’s office to find funding sources to help them.
Many of our landlords need help and we are looking to provide that help. But make no mistake, the hammer is going to fall—hard. There is no longer any tolerance in our community for our children ingesting lead.
Lastly, I feel a necessity to comment on the effort to consolidate Lewiston and Auburn into one municipality. I have no idea whether this merger will result in monetary savings for our property tax payers. I also cannot say with certainty that it will result in an increase in property taxes for taxpayers of either city.
I have no idea if such a merger would result in Lewiston-Auburn becoming a more powerful force in the State Legislature in Augusta.
This merger has been talked about for decades. Rather than dismiss it outright as a bad plan that won’t work, shouldn’t the residents of both cities be presented information addressing the pros and cons of a merger for them to review? Then, armed with this information, let them proceed to the polls and settle this issue once and for all.