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November 8, 2017

L-A merger soundly rejected in both cities

Voters in both cities soundly rejected the proposed merger of Lewiston and Auburn in Tuesday's election, with 84% voting "no" in Auburn and 68% voting "no" in Lewiston.

In unofficial results reported by the Lewiston Sun Journal, the proposal lost 6,540 to 3,315 in Lewiston and by 6,330 to 1,202 in Auburn.

"It is my hope that this vote will put an end to the idea of merger for at least another 100 years," Jim Howaniec, chairman of the Coalition Opposed to Lewiston-Auburn Consolidation, told the newspaper.

Carl Sheline, co-chair of the One LA campaign, told the newspaper: "Lewiston-Auburn voters weren't ready for one city government. We're disappointed with tonight's result, but we'll continue to look for ways that both cities can collaborate for the benefit for all residents."

Earlier on Election Day, Gene Geiger, chairman of the Joint Charter Commission, which spent three years exploring the merger idea and getting it on the ballot, told the newspaper that even if the effort was unsuccessful his group hoped "the ideas we surfaced will have life and legs and have some impact on thinking and on decision."

Proponents of the merger said combining the cities would save a minimum of $2.3 million annually by eliminating redundancies and cutting taxes for all, while opponents worried each city would lose its identity and the savings would be less than projected.

In September, the board of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce voted to support the merger of Lewiston and Auburn following a daylong retreat and a survey of the chamber's members showed 63% in favor of combining the cities and 15% undecided.

But the Sun Journal quoted several merger opponents who said the grassroots effort for keeping the two cities separate had always been stronger than the consolidation effort's campaign.

The Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce vowed in a press release Wednesday "to help move the community forward in its continued efforts for joint planning."

"We represent more than 1,050 businesses and community organizations and now that the merger initiative has failed, we want the commitment for increased collaboration to be successful," said Beckie Conrad, chamber president. "As a regional business organization serving a membership from both cities as well as the surrounding towns, our mission is to be an engine for economic vitality and enhanced quality of life. We are encouraged that during the campaign voices on both sides of the issue expressed a renewed commitment for our community to build, lead and thrive and the chamber is well positioned to promote our entire region with new programs in tourism and economic development."

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