May 10, 2013

LePage reverses course; will send funds to Lewiston victims

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Gov. Paul LePage, left, and Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald, center, look up at two burned-out apartment buildings on Bartlett Street in Lewiston on Tuesday.

The Associated Press

Also on Friday, the Department of Corrections said it would send prison work crews to Lewiston to help clean up debris and flammable material in vacant lots. The prison crews would not be at the scenes of the fires, according to Maine Correctional Center Supt. Scott Burnheimer.

Firefighters on Friday also began a biannual inspection process of the dozens of vacant and condemned properties that dot the densely built neighborhood.

Lieutenant James Pelletier of the Lewiston Fire Department visited several of the vacant homes, wielding a clipboard and checklist, inspecting the windows and doors while other firefighters affixed red and white placards that mean the buildings are unsafe for firefighters to enter during a fire.

The fire department’s proactive inspection regimen helps identify unsecured buildings that could be easy prey for copper thieves, drug users, or vagrants looking for a place to stay, said code enforcement officer and Police Corporal Jeff Baril, who estimated that copper theft is the quickest catalyst in a property’s demise.

But amidst the dirt lots and blighted buildings, there were rays of optimism and renewal as well.

Klara Tammany, director at the Center for Wisdom’s Women, was labeling popsicle sticks to mark where other volunteers planted sunflower seeds in the now-vacant lot at the site of the first fire on Blake Street. Unwilling to take over the property with blossoms without permission, the rebel gardeners planted the donated seeds at the edge of the property.

“My dream was to seed this with a sunflower field, and have a huge sign of hope at the end of the summer,” said Tammany. “We’re hoping it will make somebody smile.”

-- Staff writer Eric Russell contributed to this report.

Matt Byrne can be reached at 791-6303, or at:

mbyrne@pressherald.com.

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