LEWISTON – Sometimes, Auburn Mayor John Jenkins said, family members have to yell.

“You’ve got to vent, to let it out,” he told Lewiston city councilors and Mayor Larry Gilbert. “But you end up hugging and saying, ‘You’re still a knucklehead, but we’ll work it out.'”

There was yelling, as councilors from both sides of the river tried to clear the air over the way Auburn disbanded the Citizens’ Commission on Lewiston-Auburn Cooperation.

But it ended the way Jenkins predicted, with him shaking hands and saying, “I still love you guys.” He also promised to call Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert to schedule future council meetings.

“We can go into this as deep as you want, but we’re still here and we’re still willing to work it out,” Jenkins said.

He started the meeting on a conciliatory note, outlining the ways the cities have worked together in the past and vowing that it would continue, even without a formal consolidation process.

“All of these things happened because we, councilors and mayors of both cities, were put in a position where we could monitor the public budgets and pocketbooks and keep them safe,” Jenkins said. He applauded Twin Cities efforts, ranging from mutual aid agreements for Lewiston and Auburn fire and police departments to the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council.

But Jenkins said he and Auburn councilors voted to end the Citizens’ Commission because it was no longer working.

“It was a flawed model, and it was no longer doing what we expected,” Jenkins said. It would make more sense for councilors, mayors and the cities’ staffs to work together directly.

“That’s who needs to be making these decisions,” he said. “When we create a committee to sit between us, we create another filter and we don’t need more filters.”

Lewiston Mayor Gilbert was the first to challenge Jenkins. He pointed out that Jenkins had created the first consolidation effort when he was the mayor of Lewiston.

“But that was then, and this is now,” Jenkins said. “I told you the model is flawed, and it’s been 13 years since we started and we don’t have anything to show for it. You don’t have to hit me 13 times before I figure out it needs to stop.”

Gilbert also faulted Jenkins, Auburn City Manager Glenn Aho and the Auburn council for not working harder to schedule meetings with the Lewiston council and staff.

The meeting became hostile when Lewiston Councilor Robert Reed hinted at some backroom dealings in Auburn that helped end the commission. He also complained that Auburn acted by itself, never checking with Lewiston.

Jenkins said he did present Auburn’s resolution to one Lewiston councilor. After a few minutes, Lewiston’s Tom Peters said he had met with Jenkins and proposed adding a paragraph requiring the Lewiston and Auburn staff to continue meeting. That paragraph didn’t make it into Auburn’s final resolution.

Nonetheless, it showed that at least one Lewiston councilor was in the loop, Jenkins said. He expected that councilor would brief his Lewiston peers. Reed and Councilor Denis Theriault said Peters did not.

Auburn Councilors Dan Herrick and Ray Berube also took to the podium, with Herrick defending Auburn Manager Glenn Aho and Berube blasting Gilbert.

“The reason groups have worked is that they’ve stayed non-political,” Berube said. “But this group, you made it political, Larry.”

He accused Gilbert of trying to take over Auburn after then-City Manager Pat Finnigan resigned.

“You wanted to bring your administrator Jim Bennett right in there, no matter what,” Berube said.

Gilbert countered that he hadn’t been elected mayor when Finnigan resigned. The previous City Council was behind that, he said.

Gilbert was sworn into office in February 2007, the same month that Finnigan announced she was leaving Auburn. She worked through June 2007. The joint services group suggested hiring Bennett to manage both cities in May, but Jenkins squashed the idea in June.

Lewiston Councilor Denis Theriault said he felt that the consolidation effort was forced on Auburn.

“There was a sense that this was a hostile takeover, and I’d like to apologize for that,” Theriault said. “It did feel like an arranged marriage, where one partner didn’t want it.”


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