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Tempers flare between city council members and Lewiston Civic Theatre Board

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A heated meeting tonight (Monday) over the Lewiston Civic Theater, and who’s going to foot the bill. The building has been condemned since August, and one street in front of it has also been closed since. Tonight (Monday) the City Council demanded answers from the Lewiston Civic Theater Board members.

"As far as the negligence... it just makes me sick, I've taken my kids in there,” said Cari Miller, council member.

A stern statement from Cari Miller, not only as a city council member, but also as a concerned mother. Mayor Jim Kleeburg echoed the same sentiment.

"What disappoints me the most is, I've been on the council for nine years, and we've supported the Civic Theatre to the tune of $30,000 plus every year,” said Kleeburg.

He says some of that went to the cost procuring scripts for the plays, etcetera’s. But Kleeburg questions the math.

"Now if you start doing the math that's $270,000 that could have gone toward repairing the roof,” said Kleeburg.

Lewiston Civic Theatre Board members fired back, saying the problem of the unstable structure wasn’t theirs to begin with.

"Since 1972. there was a reason why the Methodist Church gave this building to the Civic Theatre,” said board member. “They didn't want to take care of it either if you will."

The city condemned the Lewiston Civic Theatre in August of 2016 because it was at risk of collapse. In a detailed report dated May of 2016, addressed to then Executive Director Beth Larson, structural engineers wrote, “For many years, several professionals have expressed concern about the life and safety hazards of the current state of the theatre. “Now council members want to know why the board didn’t take any measures back then. But the conversation appeared to go in circles.

"We understand that maintenance was not done on the building, none of us have been on the board,” said board member. “I think that the longest someone has been on the board for four years. Most of us have been on the board for two years or less."

"The group as a whole going back three years has neglected the building, that's given, but now the city and the taxpayer are the one picking the tab,” said Kleeburg.

"We totally understand the cities point of view, we understand that it's a burden on the taxpayers,” said board member. “I'm a taxpayer, and I'd be happy to pay."

Council member Miller once again spoke out in opposition.

"I feel pretty strongly about the Civic Theatre putting all they have into this and not just rely on the city's money and the taxpayer's money to take care of the issue,” said Miller.

Now, the insurance policy for the Civic Theatre ends on March 19th. At that point the city will be held liable if the building were to collapse. The cost to repair the condemned building would be more than to demolish it.

Today all but one council member voted to have the city attorney draft a policy to take over the building. That councilmember who voted no was Cari Miller.

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