try, try again. But this time, with a different partner.

Joint services in Lewiston now have a different direction – east. After unrequited advances for sharing services with Auburn, the top administrators in Lisbon and Lewiston have decided to share code enforcement and assessing departments in the interest of saving some money.

It’s little surprise. The manager in Lisbon, Steve Eldridge, came to town after coordinating joint services between Lewiston and Auburn. Lewiston City Administrator Jim Bennett couldn’t have found a more receptive audience for this idea than somebody who knows it intimately.

The savings proposed by this sharing are not tremendous – about $35,000 for each community, according to estimates shared Tuesday. Of greater value, it seems, is putting principles of collaboration and consolidation to use, instead of snuffing them before their time.

For all the talk, study, talk, investment, talk, shouting and talk about shared services between Lewiston and Auburn, nothing has been implemented. Ideas have remained half-formed and plans half-drawn. Each process has been a frustrating and unfulfilling academic exercise.

What’s worse in this situation are the high stakes attached to collaboration’s success. A reputation for innovative partnerships, for example. A $200,000 state grant, bestowed upon L-A because of past successes and as a down payment on future, exemplary work.

The subsequent failings of collaboration have threatened the former and made mockery of the latter, which could harm the cities going forward. Who works with entities that neither live up to their billing, nor even try to offer a return on significant investments in them?

It’s here the Lewiston-Lisbon relationship could prove valuable, by salvaging the wreckage of Lewiston-Auburn collaboration and manufacturing something usable.

Before consummating the deal, however, the L-L governing boards should stick to the same sensible guiding thoughts of L-A collaboration – find long-term savings in departments, through efficiencies and attrition, and make combined technology a priority.

These principles are applicable to every situation, in every city or town. If L-L can make mutual assessing and code enforcement work for their needs, that’s great. But if they can prove that collaborative services work as a concept and as policy, that would be even better.

After all, a point of these efforts has been to be a model for others. While L-A’s work so far shouldn’t be emulated, the proposal for L-L still has that chance.


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