August 1, 2017

Spirited debate at Lewiston-Auburn merger hearing

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Peter Rinck of Rinck Advertising, left, and attorney Jim Howaniec stand on the James B. Longley Bridge between Lewiston and Auburn. Rinck is in favor of the proposed merger of the two cities, while Howaniec opposes the idea. Voters will get their say in November.

No clear consensus emerged at Monday's public hearing in Auburn on the proposed merger of Lewiston and Auburn that is scheduled for a public referendum on Nov. 7.

The Lewiston Sun Journal reported that business and civic leaders speaking in favor of the merger included Jim Wellehan, president of the shoe retailer Lamey Wellehan; Chip Morrison, who retired in 2015 as executive director of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce, a position he held since 1995; and Dan Thayer, president of Thayer Corp. in Auburn. Opponents included two Auburn councilors, Leroy Walker and Robert Stone; Ron Potvin, vice chairman of the Coalition Opposed to Lewiston-Auburn Consolidation and a former Auburn city councilor now living in Lewiston who's running for mayor; and Matt Leonard, a local businessman and former president and CEO of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

Charter Commission Chairman Gene Geiger told the gathering that he recorded the meeting, adding that the commission will be reviewing all the comments with an eye toward addressing some of the concerns raised at Monday's hearing.

As reported by Mainebiz in May, a merger study by the CGR consulting firm that was released in January cited these benefits:

  • Total annualized savings of $2.3 million to $4.2 million
  • Over 10 years savings would total $1,900 for typical Lewiston property and $1,050 for Auburn
  • One police department would result in more officers on the street and fewer administrators
  • One fire department would result in improved responses with emergencies addressed by the closest unit
  • One school department would create the largest, most comprehensive district in Maine, offering greater specialization and student choices.

Some of those findings have been disputed by opponents who say the savings would be less and would come at the expense of each city losing its unique identity.

In June the Lewiston Auburn Joint Charter Commission chose "Lewiston-Auburn" as the new name for the two cities if voters approve the merger in the November referendum.


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