LEWISTON — City councilors favor challenging county budget rules in court, they said Tuesday.

City Administrator Ed Barrett on Tuesday outlined three ways councilors and other Androscoggin County municipal leaders could react to charter amendments county commissioners proposed last month. The amendment is meant to govern the county’s budget process.

Barrett said councilors could accept the county’s amendment and move on, offer up a slate of charter amendments for voters on their own, or challenge the commissioners in court.

“So the question is, what would you like us to do?” Barrett said.

Councilor Mark Cayer said he had no interest in raising the 4,600 signatures it would take put a new slate of charter amendments on November’s ballot.

“But I would support moving forward with legal action, and at the same time, getting the local communities together,” Cayer said. “I’m not sure why the county commissioners do not realize that just about every community is out there, screaming the same things.”


Councilor Michael Lachance, a member of the county Budget Committee, agreed.

“The county interpretation of what the charter says right now is one thing, but what the voters actually voted on is a different thing,” Lachance said. “The proposal from the commissioners is unacceptable. It literally does nothing.”

The county commission voted in November to reinstate a number of cuts the Budget Committee had approved, igniting a battle over which group had the final say. Those included cuts to county commissioners’ salaries and benefits.

Budget Committee members had voted to cut commissioners’ annual salaries and to do away with health insurance coverage for commissioners and their families.

Commissioners voted in November to restore much of their individual base pay and to fund individual health and dental coverage.

The move angered members of the 14-member Budget Committee and municipal officials around Androscoggin County.


Commissioners voted last month to send their version of the charter changes to the November polls.

The commissioners’ version prevents commissioners from raising their salaries without the approval of the Budget Committee. The measure also gives the Budget Committee a say in decisions to expand commissioners’ health insurance and other benefits.

But Barrett said it does not address the matter of how the budget itself is settled, and that’s the most important issue.

“It’s been clear to me that they are not at all interested in revisiting the Budget Committee process,” Barrett said.

Councilors agreed, with Councilor Shane Bouchard saying Lewiston should lead the effort.

“I’m all for taking legal action and getting the communities together, but I’m also for us to lead the effort and go forward, whether or not everybody is with us,” Bouchard said. “If we take too much time to get everybody together, we are wasting time.”

Similar discussions are going on at city and town halls across the county, Barrett said. Auburn councilors Monday said they backed further action and Barrett said he knows of discussions going on in Greene, Mechanic Falls, Livermore Falls, Turner and Sabattus.

Barrett said he would communicate with municipal managers and invite them to work with Lewiston and offer to split the estimated $5,000 to $10,000 in legal costs based on assessed value.

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