I read with great interest the guest column, “Charter Commission short on facts,” by Lewiston City Councilor Shane Bouchard (Feb. 5). Because I was the chairman of the Princeton Consolidation and Shared Services Study Commission from its launch in 2010 to the completion of its work in 2013, I am especially interested in the councilor’s comments.

In his observations, Bouchard refers to the consolidation of Princeton, New Jersey, stating, “This lone example could not be more different from Lewiston and Auburn.” I disagree. I think there are some aspects of the Princeton consolidation that are quite informative for Lewiston and Auburn and that the Lewiston-Auburn consolidation challenges are not a “far cry” from consolidation in the Princetons.

As with Lewiston-Auburn, redundancy, inefficiencies and related costs existed in the Princetons. Both the Princeton Borough and Township of Princeton had full time administrations, separate departments for police, public works, engineering, information technology/systems, as well as separate courts and different ordinances — just to name a few. At the same time, however, the two municipalities in Princeton shared 13 services, including schools, recreation and fire departments. And we found that even in the shared services in Princeton — just as with Lewiston-Auburn — there were competing agendas contributing significant costs and the loss of precious time by staff and elected officials as they attempted to provide the degree of service effectiveness residents expected.

Two other similarities are important. First, in Princeton there was a strong and vocal organization opposed to consolidation called “Preserve our Historic Borough.” Their campaign was a very big factor in the work of the Princeton Consolidation Commission requiring many meetings and intense dialogues. Sometimes we agreed on changes, sometimes not, but in the end it led to a stronger consolidation. Second, both Princeton and Lewiston-Auburn have major institutions of higher education within their boundaries that deserve to be served by efficient and vital government.

The pathway to consolidation in Princeton was challenging. Not unlike Lewiston and Auburn, the topic of consolidation was constant for more than 60 years and put to a vote for the fourth time in 2011. In Princeton, we took many of the same steps as already engaged in Lewiston-Auburn, and ultimately voted to consolidate, which has helped the two Princetons move to a brighter future.

Finally, among the many things we learned during the years of work on Princeton’s consolidation, we found that contentious and divergent points of view are necessary and helpful in making better informed decisions on consolidation.

Anton Lahnston, Damariscotta

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