Councilors hear more on staff reorganization and policy changes.

LEWISTON – Councilors dug a little deeper into their 2004 budget Tuesday night, listening to changes to the city administrator’s reorganization plan and squaring off over trash collection.

Treasurer and Tax Collector Paul Labrecque would get to keep his position and at least part of his job responsibilities, according to changes to City Administrator Jim Bennett’s new reorganization plan. Two city employees resigned their positions since Bennett first unveiled the plan and Bennett said he was able to keep Labrecque on as tax collector by juggling those empty slots.

“The end result is about the same amount of savings,” Bennett said. “We’re able to keep Paul’s experience and years of service and still have the same savings.”

Bennett’s assistant would move to the Police Department to fill a newly vacant crime analyst job. A part-time assistant would move into that spot. Executive Assistant Dot Perham-Whittier, who handles special projects for the city and acts as a community affairs officer, would also back Bennett up.

“That may mean that the Lewiston Shining Stars don’t get as much of Dot’s time as they do now,” Bennett said.

Bennett said he would also not fill a senior accountant’s job in the City Finance Department.

Those changes would offset Labrecque’s salary.

Labrecque said he was pleased with the changes. He would no longer act as city treasurer and would no longer be in charge of the city’s parking garages, according to the plan. He would continue to act as the city’s tax collector and would manage the secretarial pools Bennett is proposing.

Budget details

Bennett also highlighted some of the policy decisions behind his proposed budget. Bennett is proposing to pass a budget with no tax increase.

City Councilor Norm Rousseau said he didn’t like one Bennett proposal, cutting off trash collection for apartments of four or more units. Landlords with those units could either pay for their own trash collection or pay the city a fee. Bennett suggested a fee of about $1.35 per unit per week – about $22 per month for a four-unit apartment building.

That change could save the city $220,000, according to Bennett, but Rousseau argued that money would fall on the backs of Lewiston’s poor.

“My concern is that this amounts to a tax hike for those properties, many of them already in the poorest section of the city,” Rousseau said. “In this case, I say that the landlord would pay that fee, but end up passing it down to the renters.”

Councilor Renee Bernier challenged Rousseau to find another place in the budget to cut $220,000.

“Where would you like us to make up that money?” Bernier said. “We’ve asked the city administrator to be creative and come up with new ideas, and that’s what he’s done. So where in the budget would you come up with another $220,000?”

Bennett also suggested getting rid of the city’s mail-in car registration program and reducing the number of polling places in Lewiston to one polling place per ward. Currently, only wards two and seven have one polling place. The voting is spread between two precincts in the city’s other five wards.

Councilors are scheduled to continue budget discussions at the April 22 meeting. City department heads will be on hand for that meeting to answer specific City Council questions, Bennett said.

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