Lewiston council wary of Androscoggin County charter


LEWISTON — A charter for Androscoggin County might get support from the City Council if it doesn’t make things more expensive.

Councilor John Butler said he was wary of plans to increase the number of county commissioners from three to seven.

“What does a commissioner make now, $5,000?” Butler asked. “I don’t want us to go from paying $5,000 to three commissioners to $5,000 to seven.”

County Commissioner Elaine Makas said she didn’t think wages for commissioners would increase under the proposed charter but would go down.

“I think we’d see the money we spend on three commissioners split seven ways,” she said. “There should be no great expense to this.”

Makas and members of the county’s Charter Commission Committee presented their draft plan for a charter to the City Council at a workshop meeting Tuesday before the council’s regular meeting. Committee member Chip Morrison said it’s one of many meetings the group will be making around the county over the next few months.

“We are going to take it to every town in the county,” Morrison said. “We’ll go to all the selectmen’s meetings in all the little towns and then we’ll schedule a final public hearing.”

Morrison said the group hopes to put the charter on the November 2012 ballot. It would become the rule in 2013, if voters approve.

The proposed charter would change the form of county government, creating a spot for a professional county administrator. That person would serve as the day-to-day professional head of county government, making purchasing and other operational decisions.

Morrison said it’s one of the reasons he expects the wages for county commissioners to decrease.

“The commissioners now, they run the county,” Morrison said. “They are the administrators. That would change.”

The charter also would let the county Budget Committee — a group appointed by local municipal governments — set the pay rate for the County Commission.

The charter would divide the county into seven districts, giving broader representation to more parts of the county.

Makas said it also would make the County Commission more efficient. Having one commissioner absent for a meeting can make voting difficult when there are only three.

“We had a situation where one commissioner had to recuse himself from awarding a bid,” Makas said. “Because of scheduling conflicts, the other two commissioners could not get back together and it took us six weeks to eventually award the bid to finish that process.”

[email protected]