Commissioners kick off charter process

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AUBURN — A bid to reshape Androscoggin County government moved forward Wednesday.

The three-member County Commission voted unanimously to create a charter commission, starting the clock on a six-week process aimed at getting candidates on the November ballot. Candidates have until May 25 to submit between 50 and 80 signatures to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.

“It is a very short period of time,” Commissioner Elaine Makas said. “I want to do everything I can to help people with the process.”

She plans to give petitions to officials at Lewiston City Hall for possible candidates. The County Clerk’s Office may also have some as soon as they are printed.

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The creation of a charter is likely to take two years.

Once six people are elected — two in each of three county districts — the County Commission will appoint three more members. Among them will be a commissioner, a local municipal official and a Maine legislator.

Once the full nine members are together, the real work will begin.

They will shape the government by writing the charter, a kind of operating manual for the county. It may dictate everything from the level of professional staff to the makeup of the commission to the checks and balances between county departments

“I think this is something we need to move forward with,” Commissioner Jonathan LaBonte said before Wednesday’s vote.

Makas and Chairman Randall Greenwood said they would have preferred that a commission be formed by countywide referendum. However, they wanted to spend neither the time nor the money that would take.

Currently, Knox and Aroostook counties have charters. Cumberland, York and Somerset counties are working on them.

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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