PARIS – The Oxford County commissioners once more discussed regionalization of government services, although they don’t seem to agree on whether such a move would be a good idea.

Commissioner Steve Merrill of Norway told fellow commissioners Albert Carey of Paris and Fred Kennard of Rumford that he recently attended a Maine county commissioners’ meeting. Responses are now coming back from surveys on sharing services between counties and towns, he said.

In addition, two committees are being formed to explore the regionalization idea. One will advise Gov. John Baldacci, who has been pushing for consolidated services in the state, and another is being formed by the Maine County Commissioners Association, Merrill said.

The latter would bring department heads to the state capital to voice their positions on regionalization possibilities, “because we don’t seem to have the presence we need before the Legislature up there,” Merrill said.

“I’m not too hip on regionalization,” Carey said. He added that he may be an old “pain in the butt,” but he feels local governments will end up spending more and losing their identities if they share services.

“The bigger the animal the bigger the appetite, right?” quipped Oxford Selectman Dennis Sanborn, who was in the audience.

The loss of identity is not the issue, Merrill responded. “It’s really a pointed move toward what services (local governments) can share.”

The commissioners also talked about a tax cap initiative that will appear on the November ballot. Like many officials across the state, commissioners have said passage of the tax cap, which would cap property taxes at $10 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation based on values in 1996-97, may cripple local governments by slashing their revenue.

A straw pole was taken at the Maine county commissioners’ meeting, Merrill said. Of about 16 counties represented, “maybe all of them said there’s a good chance it’ll pass in the state, or in their counties.”

Kennard accused the state Legislature of “dropping the ball” on the tax relief issues and angering voters enough to bring about the tax cap initiative.

The cap has been proposed by Carol Palesky, who worked with the Maine Taxpayers Action Network to collect signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot.

The commission took no action on either matter.


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