Let's stop bickering over county's costs

The city of Lewiston has kicked off a round of tit-for-tat between itself and the county's rural towns that, in the end, nobody will win.

It started when Lewiston bargained down the price of dispatching services by arguing it provides its own dispatching with Auburn and shouldn't have to contribute to a system it doesn't use or need.

To which the 12 other smaller cities and towns in Androscoggin could respond: Yeah, but we pay way more to run the Androscoggin County Jail than we should.

And indeed, a story in Sunday's Sun Journal confirmed as much. Lewiston contributes 28.91 percent of what it costs to operate the county jail, but Lewiston residents make up 49.9 percent of the jail's inmates.

Durham taxpayers, for instance, pay 4.45 percent of the jail expense, but their law-breakers make up slightly less than 1 percent of the jail's occupants.

To which Lewiston counters: But many of the small town hoodlums eventually gravitate to Lewiston and establish residence here before ending up in the jail, an assertion nearly impossible to prove.

Where could it go from here?

The towns could argue they pay disproportionately to maintain District and Superior Court space when, again, most of the criminals in the court system come from L-A.

Lewiston could shoot back that its taxpayers pay for Sheriff's Department patrols that mainly benefit the small rural towns without police departments. 

As you can see, this quickly becomes — and has become — an exercise in futility. It is impossible to break down every county service and bill it with precision to each community.

That's a prescription for gridlock, which pretty much describes the years Androscoggin County cities and towns have wasted squabbling over emergency dispatching services.

To a profit-and-loss business, this would be simple: Buy one set of dispatching equipment, rent one building and hire and supervise one staff to dispatch all the emergency services in the county.

But, no, after years of bickering, we now seem headed toward three systems, one run by the county, one by Lisbon and another by Lewiston and Auburn.

We understand that local governments are facing unprecedented funding problems at all levels, from the biggest city to the smallest town.

On top of that, the governor has proposed eliminating revenue-sharing for the next two years, and wants to shift a variety of other expenses to local schools and governments.

Lewiston is being hypocritical in continually complaining that it pays too much for county dispatching services while benefiting from a formula that saves it even more money on its inmates.

We have hashed, rehashed then double-hashed all these issues. It's time to move on.

Let's apply that energy to finding ways to save money and deliver better services to all of the county's taxpayers.

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Comments

Michael Hobbs's picture

Hold on the Sun Journal wants

Hold on the Sun Journal wants people to stop bickering about the costs associated with the county, but yet just got done running an article about the county jail costs? Not to mention made it their headline for a day. Y'all were just stroking the fire and now telling everyone else to quit bickering, kind of hypocritical if you ask me.

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