Republican leaders on Tuesday touted a plan to open the state’s largest mall in the first week of 2018, despite a host of issues that have hampered the process.
The Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov.
Paul LePage said they would move to open Augusta-Springfield Mall by the end of the year.
GOP lawmakers had hoped to get it up and running by the middle of next year.
But the Senate and House have not scheduled the votes for the opening, and a decision is likely to be made later this week.
LePage’s office said Tuesday he is open to any new ideas the Legislature might have on how to open up a state-owned mall in his state.
Leger said Tuesday the House and Senate have worked out some things and agreed to take the next steps in the coming weeks.
Republicans also want to open other state-run shopping centers, including in the state capital of Augusta, which has long been a hub for retail sales.
Legere said he hopes to work with lawmakers in the new session to open new malls that are not located in cities like Portland, which is owned by the Portland city government.
Legers office did not provide a specific timeline on when the Augusta-springfield mall would open.
A number of local and regional leaders and residents have criticized the Legislature’s failure to move fast enough to move the mall.
In a news conference Tuesday, Republican Rep. Joe Bode, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said Republicans in the House are still working on some issues.
“I know there are some things we still need to work out,” Bode said.
“We are still in the process of working through some things.
We’re still trying to figure out exactly what’s the best thing to do.”
Leger, a Democrat, has faced intense criticism for his handling of the mall issue.
On Tuesday, he announced he would no longer allow members of the public to use the Mall of Maine’s new website.
LeGER: I have a website, and I will not allow anyone on the Mall to use it.
He added he would allow members to call the mall’s hotline if they have any questions.
The website was put up last month and Leger has repeatedly said he will not have it up by the time he takes office in January 2019.
LeBreton resident and Augusta mayor Brian O’Connor, who has fought to preserve the Mall as a vibrant urban neighborhood, called on lawmakers to open their minds.
“The Mall of Augusta is an important asset for the state of Maine and the entire region, and this is a significant milestone for our community and the future of our state,” O’Conner said in a statement.
Le Breton resident John Anderle said he thinks lawmakers need to get off their asses and take a long look at the mall and get back to work.
“It’s been a disaster.
It’s been over-budget, it’s been under-performing,” he said.
In August, the Legislature approved $6.7 billion for a variety of state projects and LeBre- ton signed a bill into law that will allow the Mall Authority to open.