LEWISTON — Councilors said Tuesday night that they like a proposed three-way economic development contract among Lewiston, Auburn and the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council.

But some said they were worried about settling a contract that satisfies both cities.

“I’m not sure how to proceed here, but if Auburn eliminates parts and we think they are valuable assets, this document changes,” Councilor John Butler said.

City Administrator Ed Barrett explained the contract to councilors at their workshop meeting.

Barrett said a group of officials from Lewiston, Auburn and the growth council have met regularly this year to create the draft.

“The notion that came out of this entire process was that it would be useful for us to have a formal agreement between the two cities and the growth council that sets forth the services that are expected by the two communities and also lays out some deliverables or benchmarks we can use to measure success,” Barrett said.

The proposed contract spells out eight responsibilities for the growth council. They include developing economic strategies, coordinating efforts among the two cities and other groups, promoting the area, attracting and retaining local business, and managing a loan portfolio for local businesses and administration.

The growth council would also work to promote the area as a hub for transportation, logistics and industry — aimed primarily at the Twin Cities’ industrial parks — and focus on community development in the downtown areas.

Under the proposed contract, both cities would agree to fund $189,388 for the growth council services, and the money would be specifically earmarked toward specific tasks. For example, each city would agree to pay $10,917 per year for developing a strategy, $44,211 for downtown community development and $29,936 for attracting and developing new business.

Auburn councilors reviewed the contract Monday, saying they liked some parts but not others. Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte has argued for creating a Lewiston-Auburn Port Authority to make better use of the city’s rail port, and that idea is included in the contract. But some councilors had objections to putting downtown zoning and economic development matters in the hands of a regional group.

Those positions were reversed Tuesday, with Lewiston Councilor Nate Libby saying he didn’t see a need for a port authority and Barrett saying a focused downtown effort common to both cities could be welcome.

Councilor Mark Cayer said he was willing to keep an open mind.

“The scope of services may not be everything that Lewiston wants, but it’s something beneficial for Auburn and it’s not a great expense to our citizens and an overall benefit to economic development for the region. We should be open to that,” Cayer said. “I’m going to encourage the city of Auburn to think that way as well. If we can pull this together, the results will be tangible in three to five years.”

Mayor Robert Macdonald said he wanted to isolate the group as much as possible from local politics.

“We need to have a minimum involvement of political people,” Macdonald said. “They change too often, and a good example is the Bates Mill (No. 5). It was coming down at one point, and then it was staying and then it was coming down again. Now it’s staying. We can’t keep doing that.”

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