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Lewiston, Auburn consolidation effort not lost, backers say

AUBURN — Work to combine the Twin Cities may be waiting for a November 2017 vote, but it’s not a lost opportunity, backers of the effort say.

“To be clear, the opportunity has not been missed,” said Gene Geiger, co-chairman of the Lewiston-Auburn Charter Commission. “It has only been delayed for one year.”

Gov. Paul LePage reiterated his support Thursday for consolidating the Twin Cities during a Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch but said it was a missed opportunity.

“If Lewiston and Auburn were really aggressively looking at how they could work together, they could be one city,” LePage said, to applause from the crowd. “That was an opportunity lost by these Twin Cities.”

LePage’s comments came while he was decrying the number of administrative officials working in local governments and schools across Maine, suggesting Maine residents could survive with fewer.

Commission members  pushed back a vote on their proposed charter until next November, saying they were not finished yet. The group published a draft of its proposed charter in January and a baseline report of both cities’ operations in June.

Both are available via download at newlacharter.ning.com, the Charter Commission’s website.

The group is working on a report on actual cost savings and other impacts of consolidating into a single city. That should be released in January, giving residents a solid 10 months to debate the merits and pitfalls of consolidation.

“We really want to hear what people have to say, their concerns, their questions and make sure people are well educated about what the new charter would really mean to them,” said Holly Lasagna, vice chair of the commission.

The effort was buoyed early on by a $50,000 grant from the LePage administration. In an email Thursday, Geiger said it’s clear that support continues.

“The governor has consistently talked about the many advantages of merging the two cities, including when he spoke forcefully in favor of it when he visited here last winter,” Geiger said. “We think his instincts are correct, and we expect to detail those benefits when we release our study results in January.”


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