Splitting the bill

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LEWISTON – The Twin Cities’ councilors heard pitches for $2.5 million worth of shared services Tuesday night, from airports to emergency services and economic development.

Now they’ll go back to their individual budgets to see if they can afford them.

Auburn Mayor Normand Guay said the Lewiston and Auburn city councils will meet together at least one more time in the next few months to settle the tab.

Backers of the Lewiston Auburn Economic Growth Council touted a $16,000 increase for each city. Ben Hayes, economic development specialist for the growth council, blamed that on short revenues from Auburn’s Foreign Trade Zone. The council was counting on an additional $31,000 in revenues from new businesses.

“But we’ve since learned that it’s going to take longer for businesses to realize what we have there and begin investing in it,” he said. “We’re still confident it will happen but it will take more time.”

Otherwise, the growth council’s budget was flat. The group is asking for $106,429 from each city.

“That’s a very good deal,” said LAEGC member Peter Garcia. “When you pay that money for the council’s five-and-a-half paid employees, remember you get the services of another 71 volunteer members.”

Chip Morrison, president of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce, said the growth council is one of the most important agencies in the Twin Cities. He urged councilors to fully fund both its budget and the L/A Arts budget.

“These agencies are the cornerstones of our renaissance,” he said. “It’s art and it’s economic development. They are the primary reasons why we are different today than we were years ago.”

L/A Arts was asking for $21,000 from the Auburn and $26,000 from Lewiston. That’s the same amount the agency got last year. Unlike others, the group’s request is based on each city’s population. Others request the same amount from both Lewiston and Auburn.

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