AUBURN — If this cut works, expect more. 

That’s the message from Androscoggin County Commission Chairman Randall Greenwood regarding eliminating a position from the Registry of Deeds Office. The person in that position would replace a retiring employee in another county office.

“It’s our pilot program to see how this works,” Greenwood said Wednesday. “We’d like to do more.”

Informal talks have already begun on merging the registries of deeds and probate or the county treasurer and County Commission staff, Greenwood said.

The reason is money.

The first cut will save the county about $43,000 in salary and benefits, County Clerk Patricia Fournier said.

The notion came up last month when Rita Lajoie, the county’s longtime assistant clerk, announced her plans to retire.

Rather than advertise for the job and collecting resumes, commissioners asked if there might be a way to replace Lajoie with existing staff.

“To me, it was an important question to ask,” Commissioner Jonathan LaBonte said. “If we can do the same for less, why shouldn’t we?”

The talks went quickly to the Registry of Deeds. Fewer people are visiting the office and its staff of five since much of its resources now reside on the Internet, Greenwood said.

Fournier talked with Register of Deeds Tina Chouinard, who agreed to cut a position, Greenwood said.

Chouinard declined to be interviewed for this story.

At the end of April, Deeds’ Sandy Potvin will move to a desk on the other side of the courthouse and take over the title of assistant county clerk.

Commissioner Elaine Makas agreed to the change, in part because no one would be laid off.

“We were in danger of losing a position in Deeds, anyway,” she said. “I’d rather do it through attrition. We have such good employees.”

LaBonte said he was happy to make the move, in part because it was done in cooperation with county staff. Like Greenwood, he believes other cuts may be possible.

If offices merge, some of their support staff might be shared, LaBonte said. A planned renovation of the courthouse might incorporate cuts in its design.

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