AUBURN — More frequent meetings and better organized structure for reviewing city business might help councilors make better decisions, according to City Manager Clinton Deschene.

“There is inefficiency in some of our council meetings,” Deschene said. “I think it’s more with the workshops.”

Monday’s agenda was a perfect example, he said. Councilors met at 5:30 p.m. in a workshop to discuss policy and be creative. At 7 p.m.’s regular business meeting, they are expected to act as regulators.

“The problem is, you have two different directives,” Deshene said. “You build policy and think creatively and work on other ideas and then at 7 p.m., it’s down to business and following the ordinances and voting on what they say.”

Deschene outlined his plan for a new committee structure for city councilors. According to the plan, the city would form five new committees — health and public safety, administration and audit, infrastructure and facilities, planning and development and transportation.

Three councilors would sit on each committee and review and investigate issues brought up by city departments and outside agencies before reporting to the full council.


For example, the council’s transportation committee would review issues relating to buses, parking and rail. The public safety and health committee would review police, fire and 911 issues.

“They won’t have any ability to vote, but they would make recommendations,” Deschene said. “The one risk factor I see is time and how we manage those committees. I don’t want to see a situation where they are meeting every week.”

Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said he was willing to put in extra hours.

“Here is an opportunity for this council to put in some sweat equity and leave behind a legacy,” Labonte said.

Councilors were split. Joshua Shea and Belinda Gerry said they trusted Deschene enough to try the idea, even though they were unsure if it would work.

“Even if we don’t fully understand it, I think we have to trust the manager we hired to let it work,” he said. “If the manager thinks this is the best possible way to tie the council with policy, I think we need to have some blind faith.”


But Councilor Mary Lafontaine said she was worried about creating another level of bureaucracy.

“I trust our manager, but I’m hesitant to create another layer of administration or bureaucracy or whatever,” she said.

Deschene said another recommendation is to do away with the council’s traditional pre-meeting workshops. Instead they could meet more often, with regular meetings on the first and third Mondays each month and workshop meetings on other nights.

Lafontaine said she would not support that.

“Meeting every Monday night, I am not for that,” she said. “I can say that right now. I just don’t think it’s the best use of our time.”

Deschene also recommended changes to the way the council fills its advisory boards and committees. The city has vacant seats on at least six advisory committees, including the Community Block Grant committee, the Lewiston Auburn 911 Committee and the Planning Board.


“This may be the most important issue,” Deschene said. “What we do now is not working, not at all.”

Deschene recommended a standing City Council committee that would meet two or three times each year to review advisory board memberships and recommend people to fill vacant seats.

He also recommend councilors appoint alternate members to every committee. Those would be full members who attend all the meetings, but only vote when other members are absent or recuse themselves.

Deschene said he hopes to have the new advisory committee appointment structure in place before Jan. 1. Councilors said they would continue the entire discussion at a future workshop meeting.

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