LEWISTON — When voters in Princeton Township and the Borough of Princeton, N.J., went to the polling places in 2013 to vote on combining their cities, they had a report full of facts and figures with them, a consultant said Wednesday.

But that’s not all they brought.

“The stuff we measured and quantified for them is near the top of their minds, but it’s competing with a bunch of other non-quantifiable variables,” Joseph Stefko, CEO and president of consulting firm CGR, told business and consolidation leaders.

“They brought questions about political voice, loss of control, community identity,” he said. “And all of those things are very powerful.”

Stefko was the guest of the Lewiston-Auburn Charter Commission on Wednesday, reviewing the issues with community dignitaries. His firm specializes in setting out the facts and figures, but local leaders will have to pay attention to the rest.

“It’s important to recognize the benefit pieces we can quantify, measure and analyze,” Stefko said. “But the other stuff is much squishier. The emotional pieces certainly fall into that.”

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He met local business leaders in one session and members of past joint-services efforts in a later session. He was to continue Thursday morning, meeting with government and civic leaders at Geiger’s Mount Hope Avenue offices.

“We have not agreed to do anything with him, other than today,” Charter Commission Chairman Gene Geiger said. “By the time he leaves us tomorrow, he’ll give us a few thoughts. We’re going to ask him to write a couple-page letter to tell us what he thinks about where we are and what he might be able to do for us.”

Voters in each city elected three people to the Charter Commission a year ago. Members have spent the past 12 months reviewing a model city charter and the current charters from both cities.

Stefko said his group — formerly the Center for Governmental Research based in Rochester, N.Y. — could help answer the questions concerning quantifiable matters, such as staffing, taxes, budgets and zoning rules.

Stefko said the company did that for roughly 30 communities around the Northeast — most recently, the effort to combine New Jersey’s Borough of Princeton and Princeton Township in 2013.

Each time, the company presented a fair report that detailed potential costs and savings for each community.

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But voters interpreted the report based on their emotions, he said. Supporters tended to focus on the savings for the overall community, detractors on the costs for the neighborhood.

“There will be wins, and there will be losses,” Stefko said. “But ultimately, we need people to see how we can get to the ultimate net number — the total savings or cost — when everything is added up.”

The Charter Commission will hold its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at Auburn Hall.

staylo[email protected]


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