AUBURN — The Androscoggin County Commission would like to end its contentious relationship with the county Budget Committee.

While the budget process will not begin until September, commissioners held a workshop Wednesday to look at goals for the rest of the year. The budget process topped the agenda.

Commission Chairman Ronald Chicoine signaled a thaw in the icy relationship between the two panels.

“I would like (it) this year if we can have at least one of us attend every (Budget Committee) meeting,” Chicoine said.

Chicoine said he planned to attend every Budget Committee meeting this fall. Vice Chairwoman Sally Christner and Alfreda Fournier also said they would also attend those meetings.

With the exception of the initial session when commissioners presented their budget, none of the commissioners had attended a Budget Committee meeting last year, much to the chagrin of the panel. The Budget Committee’s pleas for participation by the commissioners were ignored.

According to the charter, commissioners are not required to attend Budget Committee meetings.

The relationship between the groups disintegrated when the Budget Committee attempted to cut the commissioners’ salaries and benefits in 2014. Saying they had final authority over the budget, commissioners reinstated their salary and benefits package.

The county municipalities fought back by filing suit against the commissioners. The dispute is in the court system.

During last year’s budget hearings, the process ground to a halt at times as committee members struggled to understand parts of the budget without the commissioners’ input. The pace improved once new county Administrator Larry Post came on board and participated in the final few budget meetings.

Post promised that he and the respective county department heads would sit at the head table in front of the Budget Committee once the hearings begin later this year.

Chicoine said cooperation from commissioners would lead to a quicker budget process, which dragged on for several weeks last year.

Commissioners will deal with a new Budget Committee, whose members have completed their three-year terms. Nominating caucuses must be held in each of the seven county districts later this year, Post said. According to the charter, the caucuses will nominate two residents from each district. At least one of those two candidates must be a municipal official.

Term limits prevent members from serving more than three consecutive three-year terms.

Post anticipated that the nominating caucuses would take place in either June or July.

Also Wednesday, commissioners held a pair of executive sessions dealing with personnel issues and litigation. The sessions lasted nearly one hour, 15 minutes, with attorneys Ronald Lebel, Bryan Dench, Amy Dieterich and Stephen Wade in attendance. Wade left before the executive session ended.

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