AUBURN – A group studying shared Twin Cities services will get a report on having a single city manager later this month.

“Between paying one salary and benefit package, there are savings there,” said Steven Eldridge, joint services coordinator. “But we’ve looked at the whole staff, and what a single city manager would need for support staff. We do have a structure for them to look at it.”

The Twin Cities’ top city officials met with department heads Thursday to discuss combining staffs as well as the police, fire, public works and code enforcement departments.

Lewiston City Administrator Jim Bennett and acting Auburn City Manager Laurie Smith met with Eldridge behind closed doors for six hours in Auburn Hall. Eldridge will take those discussions to the Citizens Commission on Joint Services for discussion. That group’s next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Nov. 29 in Auburn Hall, and he expects the group to discuss city administration.

“I think we’ll tackle one department at a time,” Eldridge said. The group starts with combining city administrations and will discuss other departments at meetings in December.

The models were created by Eldridge and Twin Cities’ department heads over the past several months to show how much the combined departments would cost. Thursday was the first time Bennett and Smith had seen those models.

“I think that anything the departments have come up with is something they consider workable,” Smith said. “I think some of the intricacies within each one need a little work.”

Bennett agreed.

“The challenging part is that you have people who have worked within the same system their entire career,” Bennett said. “Sometimes we’ve had to poke and prod to get them to think in terms of alternative ways to provide services. They allowed their normal restrictions – union rules and confinements or looking at things from another side of the river perspective – to get in the way. Now they need to get back and reflect on that.”

Discussions call for finding ways to offer the same services on both sides for less and without layoffs or firings.

“It’s not a snap your fingers and you’re there,” Bennett said. “I think every model had the potential to save a number of employee positions and reduce costs.”

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