LEWISTON — A group investigating ways and reasons to combine Lewiston and Auburn will host its first public session Thursday, Aug. 28, at Auburn Hall.

Members of the Lewiston-Auburn Charter Commission decided Thursday to schedule the meeting to hear what Twin Cities residents want from a combined city and what they fear.

“Before we start any detailed deliberations on any aspect, we need to ask the open-ended question to the people who live in Lewiston and Auburn: What do you think?” Commissioner Chip Morrison said.

Commissioners met Thursday in Lewiston City Hall for the third time since being elected. So far, the meetings have been organizational in nature. With no staff, no budget and no recent merger discussions from which to take hints, the group has been figuring its own ground rules and determining what state law requires.

Members agreed that public input is important for the group to do a good job. Member Chantel Pettengill said she is working with Lewiston city staff to create a web page for the group, a Facebook page and a web depository for meeting minutes and working drafts.

The group on Thursday delved into municipal philosophy.

Chairman Gene Geiger said members have been studying the two cities’ current charters, looking for areas in which the documents are similar and where they differ.

Commissioners agreed to use the National Civic League’s Model City Charter as another guide, comparing that document with Lewiston and Auburn charters.

And they agreed they won’t stop there. They will consider charters and ideas from other cities, as well.

“You may find a charter that has a unique provision on handling the mayor, while another does a good job with finance and budgets,” Commissioner Lucien Gosselin said. “You’ll find that in different charters. You won’t find everything in a single charter.”

That led to discussion about what form of City Council a combined Lewiston-Auburn might have. It could adopt a council-manager form, similar to what each city has now, or it could have voters elect a strong mayor instead of hiring a city manager or administrator.

Twin Cities voters selected the six commissioners, three from each city, 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 a new charter.

The group has no deadline, no budget and no staff. Whatever plans it comes up with will go to the public for debate and an eventual vote.

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