AUBURN — The three-member Androscoggin County Commission wants some professional help.
On Wednesday, the group added $65,000 to its 2011 budget proposal. The money would hire a full-time county manager.
“You have a $10 million corporation without a CEO,” Commissioner Jonathan LaBonte said. “The three of us are part-time managers.”
It's too much money to be administered that way, he said.
He and fellow commissioners Elaine Makas and Chairman Randall Greenwood said they hoped the job would pay for itself by saving money elsewhere.
A full-timer with authority could speed up the hiring process countywide, shift needed personnel among departments and add a new layer of worker supervision.
“This person might better use our human resources,” LaBonte said.
It's an idea that has been discussed among county leaders and critics for decades.
Many other counties — Oxford, Cumberland, Kennebec and Sagadahoc — have administrators.
“We could spend more time being policymakers,” Greenwood said.
Commissioners hope to hire someone next March or April. However, the new position isn't a certainty. The county Budget Committee, which begins its work next week, will decide whether to fund the job. If it does, it will redefine the role of the commission.
Though the commission is often compared to local boards of selectmen or city councils, the three-member commission serves as both policymaker and manager.
Every time the sheriff wants to hire a new deputy, the commission must approve the job's posting and the sheriff's chosen applicant. Every time the jail buys uniforms for the inmates, the commission must approve the expenditure.
The commission buys the heating oil for the county building and awards the bids on who washes the county cars and who catches the county's mice.
In the 1990s, the county created a Charter Commission and drafted a new charter that would have made the county treasurer and register of deeds appointed rather than elected positions and would have created a seven-member commission.
The draft rules also would have established a full-time administrator. In 1991, voters defeated the measure and county government went unchanged.
Jim Handy of Lewiston, who chaired the earlier Charter Commission, was surprised Wednesday by the timing of the new proposal.
“I strongly support professional leadership at the head of county government,” Handy said. However, he said he thinks the new Charter Commission, which is scheduled to be elected on Nov. 2, should be leading such changes.
Waiting for the new commission and voter approval might take “two or three years,” Greenwood said.
A new administrator would likely be a help to the Charter Commission, Makas said.