I recently joined about 100 other residents at the Franco Center in Lewiston to listen to the Lewiston-Auburn Joint Charter Commission present its findings about merging our two great cities.

As a Lewiston City Councilor and a member of the Coalition Opposed to Lewiston-Auburn Consolidation, I worry that what was presented at the meeting may have been interpreted as “factual.” The unfortunate reality is that no serious facts and very little information were actually presented. Words like “could,” “maybe,” “possibly,” and “if” were the stars of the show. Never did we hear the word “would.”

Instead of realities, we were shown utopias. And when grilled for details, we were met with the response: “Read the 88-page report.”

Some at the meeting asked why our opposition group had been formed before the Joint Charter Commission’s report had been presented. While for some in attendance this may have all been new information, for many of us it was not. We have been closely following consolidation efforts for the past two-and-a-half years. We have sought out unbiased information by doing significant research on the very rare previous consolidations that have occurred in the United States. What we found out was that, in previous cases, the actual “facts” and realities did not work out as projected.

The Joint Charter Commission has repeatedly cited the consolidation of the city of Princeton and Princeton Township in New Jersey. This lone example could not be more different from Lewiston and Auburn.

Princeton Township is small and completely surrounded by the city of Princeton. In local terms, it would be like merging the Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary into the city of Lewiston. The school departments had already been merged since 1976 and 12 other departments were already combined before an actual merger took place: A far cry from the redundant, heavily bureaucratic, ineffective joint agencies we now share. We presume that fact was accidentally left out.


While we thank the Joint Charter Commission and its New York-based consultant group for the time they have spent, we question whether we, in fact, are the ones with closed minds. After two-and-a-half years and more than $100,000 ($50,000 from taxpayer money) we still have no clear answers. We have an outline, a draft, but no facts. Without the presentation of quantifiable savings or benefits, the only factor left to consider is emotion. Perhaps Commission members should look within and consider whether they themselves are open-minded or just trying to make the merger work for their agenda, regardless of their findings.

Commission member Eugene Geiger was correct in his sobering presentation about what is coming down the pike in terms of demographics and population in the state of Maine. However, his conclusion that simply erasing a line on a map will somehow move the needle in our community is simply not rational. There is no data available to support his claim and looking to Portland is laughable at best — because somehow population equals power? Because somehow population equals influence? Portland’s population and tax base are a result of attributes we simply do not have: An international jetport, a far larger and more built up metropolitan area, three major roadways in and out of the city and several miles of oceanfront property that not only provide a substantial tax base but a port for shipping, commercial fishing and a tourist industry.

Simply erasing a border between Lewiston and Auburn does nothing to counter that.

We asked the presenters to consider the one-time capital expenditure it would take to consolidate. These expenditures alone would absorb all of the “possible” savings from this merger for at least the 15-year life of the bond we would need to carry. Their response: “We have no way of knowing.”

We find it hard to believe that the commission’s consulting group, which supposedly specializes in municipal consolidations, has no idea what these costs would look like. These “possible” savings will always be here whether we combine the cities or not. Proper municipal cooperation — without the bureaucracy and redundancy, and relinquishing certain sacred cows — can provide the same savings proposed in the Utopian world view of a joined Lewiston-Auburn while still maintaining our individual identities.

A major concern from many in attendance at the meeting centered on informing the public. How was the commission going to get the information out so people would make an informed decision? The problem, unfortunately, is that there is no real “information” in the commission’s report, only the words “could,” “maybe,” “possibly,” and “if” placed in a box with a pretty bow that took two-and-a-half years and more than $100,000 to wrap.


We have no guarantees and nothing tangible.

We all recognize that change is a beacon for the future, but the change the commission is presenting is not the answer. We are not Portland. We do not need to be Portland. That city has its attributes and we have ours.

Let’s do better at improving what we are instead of masquerading as something we are not.

Shane Bouchard is a Lewiston City Councilor. He also serves on the executive board of the Coalition Opposed to Lewiston-Auburn Consolidation.

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