The last time two Maine municipalities combined everything was 92 years ago — and it took six tries to get it right.

“There was never much fighting between the two towns — no more then you’d expect between two neighboring towns,” said Louis Stevens, 84, a Dover-Foxcroft historian, author and former newspaper reporter for the Piscataquis Observer. “You could go across the river and not get beat up, if that means anything. But it just took awhile to get it straight.”

Now, Lewiston and Auburn will see if they can duplicate that feat.

Voters go to the polls June 10 to select six people for a City Charter commission. Those six — three from Auburn and three from Lewiston — will begin drafting a plan to make one larger city out of two medium sized ones.

They’ll write a new charter — basically, a constitution for the new city — as well as a plan for all the other details, such as its name, location of offices and political divisions. Most importantly, they’ll decide how debt, city assets and services will be parsed and paid for.

That’s really about it as far guidelines go. The state statute governing consolidating cities and towns, Maine Revised Statues 30-A 2152, is succinct and to the point, according the Maine Municipal Association and city clerks. The commission has no deadline — they can argue and negotiate as long as it takes — no budget and no real authority beyond drafting the document.

When it finishes, voters will have their say. A majority in both cities have to approve the charter and all of the plans that go along with it independently. And if either city votes no, the matter ends there — until the next time residents bring it up.

That was the situation in Dover-Foxcroft at the turn of the last century, Stevens said.

“Usually a sticking point is the schools and sports, but they all went to school together,” he said. “There was no rivalry there. They felt there wouldn’t need to be two superintendents of schools or two highway commissioners if they were one town. They’d already put in a water and sewer system together, so it wasn’t anything new for them to work together.”

The two towns were as similar as they could be, with most residents of either Dover or Foxcroft crossing paths daily.

“People that lived on one side often owned businesses on the other,” Stevens said. “They went to church on the other side, too. They’d be living together, at church and shopping and at businesses. They worked together during World War I. The people on the other side of the river might just be people you sat next to at church or where you went in for groceries. Your lawyer or your doctor might live on the other side of the side of the river, too.”

There were still enough differences to keep them from joining forces. Five times supporters put the measure forward, and five times voters from Dover turned it down.

“Who knows why,” Stevens said. “One idea was that Dover was a bit more agricultural and they had more people in the rural areas. Those farming people, living out in the country, felt that perhaps the things they needed might not get funded at a town meeting.”

In fact, it wasn’t until Maine’s women gained the right to vote that the effort to combine the two succeeded.

“Who got the vote in 1921? Women,” Stevens said. “In Dover, that meant that close to 300 women got the right to vote. And by the way the numbers came out that last time, Dover voted quite overwhelmingly to join Foxcroft in marriage. That’s the way they addressed it back then.”

Stevens said the town’s name turned out to be one of the biggest sticking points.

“Foxcroft really wanted to hold on to that name, but Dover didn’t want to give up their name either,” he said. That’s why they opted for that hyphen. It makes for a long, uncomfortable name to type, but that’s the way it went.”

The towns officially held their first town meeting in 1922. Supporters were pleased that spending that first year actually decreased.

“At that meeting, Dover got the things they wanted,” Stevens said. “But they noted the money appropriated was less than the two had appropriated separately. They did save a little money, just by uniting.”

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  Auburn Lewiston
No. City Employees 240 343
-Police officers 64 95
-Firefighters 60 73
-Public Works 55 82
-General Government 45 94
Number of Schools 9 9
School Employees 585 866
Road Miles 237 188
City Parks 19 17

  Auburn Lewiston
Assets $155,877,814 $341,625,000
Liabilities $70,198,646 $190,089,000
Total Revenues $81,169,573 $132,455,000
Debt $59,534,323 $158,186,000

Sources: City of Auburn Consolidated Annual Report, June 2013 and City of Lewiston Consolidated Annual Report, June 2013.

Candidates for the Twin Cities Charter Commission

Residents of each city will select three:

Auburn

Alfreda Fournier, 43 Davis Ave.

Charles Morrison, 46 Lake St.

Holly Lasagna, 220 W. Auburn Road

John Spruill Jr., 10 Aron Dr.

Michael Beaulieu, 27 Sherman Ave.

Verne Paradie Jr., 100 Hillside Ave.


Lewiston

Chantel Pettengill, 200 Montello St.

Charles A. Soule, 135 Bartlett St.

David Chittim, 28 No Name Pond Road

Eugene Geiger, 22 Robitaille Circle

Lucien B. Gosselin, 625 College St.

Richard Grandmaison, 51 Jean St.


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