LEWISTON – The city would take over assessing and code enforcement for Lisbon, according to a joint services plan presented to both councils Tuesday night.

Lewiston and Lisbon would share an estimated $67,000 savings per year, said Lewiston City Administrator Jim Bennett.

“This has only been discussed at the manager level, but we’re 75 to 80 percent of the way there,” Bennett said.

According to the deal, Lewiston would absorb one member of Lisbon’s two-person assessing and code enforcement department. Code Enforcement Officer Mike Cote would come to Lewiston; Assessor Jerry Samson would lose his job.

Lewiston would take over assessing and code enforcement for the town of Lisbon, which would pay Lewiston $100,000, about $32,000 less than the current budget for the two departments.

The town has 4,500 properties in its assessing records. Bennett said the added work would cost the city an additional $65,000.

“We’d be looking to split a savings of about $70,000 between the two, and that’s not bad,” Bennett said.

Bennett presented the plan to Lewiston councilors during their regular meeting Tuesday night. Eight miles away at Lisbon’s Town Council meeting, Town Manager Stephen Eldridge proposed the idea to his council as part of his budget presentation. The final decision will be up to those elected officials, Eldridge said.

The two councils are scheduled to discuss the plan at an April 14 meeting in Lisbon.

Lisbon Town Council Chairman Mike Bowie said he was looking at the proposal and considering the current economic situation and conditions.

“I’m open to anything that will save our community money,” Bowie said.

Councilor Dale Crafts was noncommittal but said he was open to listening. He said he would prefer to see Assessor Samson stay with the town, however.

Lewiston councilors favored the plan, with Councilor Tom Peters urging Bennett to take it further.

“I think there are other small towns that, if approached with an offer like this, would be willing to participate,” Peters said. “We’ll put that out to the public now, but you may find one or two towns more lining up.”

It’s familiar ground for Eldridge. He was the paid coordinator for the Citizens Commission on Lewiston-Auburn Cooperation effort until January 2008, when he took the Lisbon manager position.

“I’ve always thought it was possible, long before the Lewiston-Auburn effort,” Eldridge said. He was town manager in Greene when that community hired a shared animal control officer with its neighbors.

“The goal has always been to find ways to save money and improve things,” Eldridge said. “When I worked the Lewiston-Auburn effort, I could see the savings firsthand. Now, I know it will work for this project.”

Bennett said Eldridge’s experience was one reason both men were convinced it would work.

“Because of the experience Stephen and I had, working together for more than a year, we were able to avoid some of the missteps that came up between Lewiston and Auburn,” Bennett said.

Lisbon revaluation

Eldridge said he hoped the agreement would help modernize the town’s assessing records. Lisbon still uses handwritten cards to track property assessments, instead of computerized records. The city’s property values were last updated in the 1980s, he said.

“If we do this, we’d like to see what can be done to help us do a revaluation,” Eldridge said. “It would take about three years to ramp up and complete, and by that time we expect the real estate market will have improved. It seems like this would be just about the perfect time to get started.”

Samson said he was devastated to learn his job was in jeopardy. He’s worked for Lisbon for about 20 years and is 64 years old.

“I don’t know what else to say, except I’m unemployed if it goes through,” he said

A Buckfield resident, Samson said he had expected to work for Lisbon until he retired in a year in a half or so. He earns $55,000 a year and did not get a raise last year due to the economic downturn.

He doubted his ability to get a new job.

“At 64, who will hire me?” Samson said.

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