LEWISTON — City officials will be dusting off their copies of the 2009 joint services report, looking for new ways to cut costs.
Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett said he and Auburn Manager Clinton Deschene have directed their department heads to start taking another look at the report and meeting with each other.
"We're different cities now than we were when this was first adopted," Barrett said. "There have been a lot of changes, in particular staffing reductions, on both sides of the river. So this is an effort to see what was in that report, what was recommended, does it still make sense and if there are other things we want to study."
Joint services talks in the Twin Cities date back to 1996, when the cities combined on L/A Together, a report on ways to cooperate.
The effort was picked up again in in 2004 when the Guay brothers, Lewiston Mayor Lionel and Auburn Mayor Norm, formed a new commission of business and community leaders to review the options.
That led to the creation of the Citizens Commission on Joint Lewiston and Auburn Cooperation in 2006. That group received $197,916 in state grants and issued its final report in 2009, identifying $2 million in savings over five years by consolidating administrative positions, police, public works equipment purchases and economic development.
It called for shared computer programs in many departments and a combined assessing department in the short term.
The effort ran into problems after the report was filed, with councilors on both sides of the river saying the cities needed to worry about their own affairs.
Mayor John Jenkins and the Auburn council put an end to the commission in 2009, voting to disband the group. The work continued however, as both cities agreed to move to purchase a shared software suite, Energov, for municipal services.
Barrett said the Energov suite is being used today.
"All of the building department permits and things are up, and we are both on that," Barrett said. "And we are testing the business licensing part of it."
Both cities also have complementary telephone systems that back each other up.
"We have had some savings in that we share the software," Barrett said. "We did not have to go out and purchase separate systems. It improves our record keeping so there may be advantages there in terms of efficiency."
The latest effort builds on that work.
"Clearly we do a lot together," Barrett said. "There is no doubt in my mind that things we have been doing together do help hold down the cost of government. If you look at Lewiston's per capita operating budget compared to the other 10 largest cities, we are the lowest. There is a whole series of reasons for that, but one is that we do things cooperatively with Auburn."