LEWISTON — Members of the Twin Cities’ Charter Commission are a long way from settling the minute details of combining two cities into one.

On Monday night, they settled on some rules, selected Lewiston’s Eugene Geiger as chairman and Auburn’s Holly Lasagna as vice chairwoman and set the stage for future work and debates.

“We are either going to come up with something that makes this community work better than it currently does or we’re better off not doing anything,” Geiger said. “If all we are going to do is rewrite a bunch of legalistic stuff, it doesn’t mean beans. We need to start coming with understandings and justifications for why putting these communities together makes sense.”

Members of the commission met for 3½ hours in a discussion moderated by former Auburn City Councilor Richard Livingston.

Twin Cities voters selected the six members at the June polls. The commission is expected to spend the next two years or longer researching and discussing methods to combine Lewiston and Auburn and writing a consolidation plan and new charter.

The group has no deadline, no budget, no staff and whatever plans they come up with must go the public for debate and eventual vote.

Monday’s meeting was designed to help the group create some structure, adopt some basic policies and hash out a plan to begin their work of writing a new charter.

They agreed to set a four-vote minimum to adopt policy. Members teleconferencing via computer or telephone can vote but at least four members must be physically present for the meeting to count.

The group has met twice since June, once in Lewiston and once in Auburn, but one of the six members teleconferenced via computer or telephone.

Lewiston representative Lucien Gosselin said he saw the group working on three simultaneous tasks: Writing the new charter, making the case for why it’s a good idea and figuring out how to make it happen.

Members suggested some short-term reports, like comparing the existing Auburn and Lewiston charters to see what’s different, identifying big issues they’ll need to handle in a master list and coming up with experts and local officials they can tap to advise them.

Gosselin suggested commissioners create a list of joint agencies that would be redundant if the cities combined. Lewiston-Auburn 911, the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee and even the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council could simply become departments of the new city, he said. Gosselin retired from leadership of the growth council this summer.

The group also debated using online collaborative tools such as Google Docs to write drafts of their proposed charter. Lasagna and Lewiston’s Chantel Pettengill are proponents of using the online word processor to work on drafts collaboratively.

Gosselin said doing that might violate Maine’s public access and open-meeting rules. The group agreed to check with the Maine Press Association, Maine Municipal Association and the state Ombudsman’s office to see if there is legal precedent for using those kinds of tools.

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