AUBURN — A new, seven-member group could decide city policy regarding water, tree and land issues.

Public Works Director Denis D’Auteuil briefed councilors on an effort to create a city conservation commission. It would be similar to the joint Lewiston-Auburn Forestry Board

“But the commission is broader,” D’Auteuil said. “You are looking at wetlands, all open spaces, you are looking at all of our forests, whether they are city-owned or school-owned.”

Those areas used to fall under the purview of the city’s Recreation Committee, but city councilors changed that group, making it focus on recreation and special events.

According to D’Auteuil, the commission would also keep track of the city’s trees and efforts to harvest and trim them.

Since fall 2008, the city has sold excess wood on city lots, including schools, cemeteries and other public lands such as Mt. Apatite, and used the proceeds to fund a low-income heating program.

The program, Community Cords, lets the city buy up to 100 gallons of heating oil or kerosene or pay a comparative amount of the electric heating bill for Auburn residents who can’t afford it but may not qualify for General Assistance or Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The program is funded entirely through the sale of city wood.

Since 2010, the program has taken in about $47,000 and given out $26,600.

D’Auteuil said the commission could manage that program, using excess revenues to fund forestry programs.

Councilor Belinda Gerry had an issue with that.

“I want to find a way to protect that money and keep Community Cords intact so that those less fortunate will be provided for when we need it,” Gerry said.

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