AUBURN — From preserving each city’s cultural flavor to fears of skyrocketing property taxes, foes of a Twin Cities charter effort say they are ready to make their case.

“We still love everybody on the other side of the bridge, but we love being on our own side of the bridge,” City Councilor Leroy Walker said Thursday. “We want to stay Auburn and I believe they want to stay Lewiston.”

Walker and a group of former and current elected officials in Lewiston and Auburn hosted a news conference at Rolly’s Diner in New Auburn on Thursday, outlining their reasons for opposing the merger of Lewiston and Auburn.

Members of the group included Walker, former Lewiston Mayor Jim Howaniec, former Auburn councilors Ron Potvin and Belinda Gerry and former Auburn School Committee member Larry Pelletier.

They were joined by more sitting city councilors: Bob Stone and Ernestine Gilbert of Auburn and Shane Bouchard of Lewiston.

The group does not have any formal meetings scheduled yet, Howaniec said, but wanted to get organized right away.


“We became a little concerned that this might become a fait accompli, with a well-organized and well-articulated group in favor of a merger but no organized opposition,” Howaniec said. “We decided to at least form a group, a very loose organization.”

Potvin said he’s worried about financial impacts on Twin Cities taxpayers. Property taxes will shift from one side of the river to the other, with either Lewiston or Auburn having to share the city’s burden.

“Right off the bat, both cities will be subject to a revaluation,” Potvin said. “We’ve seen how great that went in Auburn in 2005. I don’t want to see the people of Lewiston have to go through what Auburn went through.”

Gerry said her concern is that individual voters will get lost in a bigger city’s politics.

“Right now, the sentiment people in Auburn have — and to some degree, in the people (of) Lewiston — is that they don’t have a say,” Gerry said. “They feel, ‘Why bother?’ But if it’s so hard for residents to go to Auburn and talk in front of a council, how much harder is (it) going to be for this huge entity, this new city? It’s going to be even worse.”

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, as well as a document comparing it with the current Lewiston and Auburn charters, in January and hired consultants CGR to help figure out how combined city operations would work.

The charter commission is considering a November vote on its proposed charter and organization plan.

Lewiston Councilor Bouchard said he wants that to happen, for voters to settle the matter, once and for all.

“I believe in the democratic process,” Bouchard said. “If we want to kill this, we need to kill it at the polls.”

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