LEWISTON — A draft charter that sketches out how a combined Twin Cities government would work answered some questions when it was released last month, but not all of them.

“There are so many things that have to be dived into,” Charter Commission Chairman Gene Geiger said. “We have to look into city operations, schools, police and fire and see how those would work.”

Now, the effort turns to filling in those details, he said.

Consultants from Rochester, N.Y.-based government efficiency consultants CGR are scheduled to arrive in Maine on Monday night for a week of meetings with the commission, staff and officials from both cities and with the public.

They are hosting two public meetings, Tuesday and Wednesday. The first will be a less formal meet and greet at 5 p.m. in Callahan Hall, upstairs in the Lewiston Public Library. They’ll host a community conversation at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Auburn Hall. Residents are invited to both meetings.

“The idea here is they gather information, they talk to department heads and city managers and gather public information,” Geiger said. “They start doing a baseline analysis of how things work today — how the school systems run and work, how many police, how many firefighters. And they put it into a big pile.”

The Sun Journal is also hosting a live blog at noon Monday, Feb. 8, with CGR President Joe Stefko and members of the commission to talk about what they learned while in town.

Geiger said the next step is looking at options for combining the cities and what those would mean for services and taxes.

“Based on what differences there are between Lewiston and Auburn, then they give us options,” Geiger said. “Essentially, you have an options phase where experts put ideas of how, in a new city, things could work and be structured in front of the people.”

Lewiston and Auburn voters elected six commissioners — three from each city — in June 2014 to study and draft a new charter combining the two cities. The group has met twice each month discussing government options, meeting with local government representatives and writing a draft charter combining language from the Lewiston and Auburn charters and a national model charter.

The commission released the draft of the charter and a document comparing it with the current Lewiston and Auburn charters last month.

CGR has written reports for as many as 30 communities in New York state and the rest of the Northeast. The work consists of a baseline review of both governments today — the number of employees, assets, taxes and other data. Next, they develop scenarios that combine operations, outlining benefits and drawbacks for each.

Geiger said he thinks there will be three working groups going over the options once that’s complete — one devoted to general government, one to public safety and a third devoted to the schools.

“Essentially, they will look at everything that’s done here and what might be done in a more efficient way,” Geiger said.

That’s what residents of both cities will ultimately vote on, Geiger said. The commission tentatively plans to have that vote on the November ballot, but Geiger said he is fine with pushing it back.

“I’d rather we let the date slip than do a mediocre job,” Geiger said. “There is a slight difference in opinion among my colleagues on the commission. But really, how often do you do something like this? If you do it, you better do a damn fine job.”

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