The Coalition in Opposition to L-A Consolidation has joined together, not to see the glass “half empty” and thinking that the merger of Lewiston and Auburn “can’t” be done. We simply don’t want it to be done.

The individual cities have histories and attributes that identify them as individual and thriving cities, working collaboratively in many ways to make themselves more efficient. I would like to see more of that done, but without joining the cities together.

Members of the Joint Charter Commission have put together their “wish lists” based on supposition, guesstimates and possibilities to present to an unsuspecting and naive public. I feel the public is being blindfolded and led down a path that is full of potholes, washouts, ruts and drop-offs. There are no guarantees that those on that path will get to the end unscathed. Nothing is definite.

Gene Geiger has stated that Gov. Paul LePage supports the merger efforts, but by the time any merger comes to a vote and put in place, there may well be a new governor who may think differently.

With the debt that will be incurred in the next few years, the “projected savings” can be thrown out the window — a new fire station and a new substation that will cost approximately $20 million in the city of Lewiston; a new $65 to $70 million high school in Auburn. Those will more than eat up the Joint Charter Commission’s “projected,” “guesstimated” savings.

Auburn has a neighborhood school system. Lewiston does not. I doubt that Auburn residents will want to transport their children to distant schools instead of leaving them in their own neighborhoods.

Auburn’s test results show that Auburn has a superior education system already. Most likely, the test results have been skewed because of the many non-English speaking immigrants who have been placed in classrooms without a clear understanding of the language. The Lewiston schools are falling behind because of the special needs of their non-English speaking students, and this will continue to happen as more and more immigrants relocate to Lewiston.

That has not had the same impact in Auburn. With the number of immigrants moving into the community and with the state using a two-year lag basis for funding schools, we will not see any state reimbursement coming our way.

Lewiston deals with more people with social services than any other municipality in Maine. Because of that, Lewiston has drawn more people who need those services. Their social services budget is almost three times higher than that of Auburn. Auburn taxpayers don’t want to have to pay higher taxes in order to fund more social services recipients.

The Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council has totally failed the city of Auburn. Auburn paid $160,000 a year for absolutely no return for its money. The LAEGC was supposed to grow Auburn’s economy, but failed miserably during the past 10 years. It is a private entity that was failing from the top down for years, wasting taxpayers’ money.

By itself, Auburn has drawn new businesses, without the LAEGC. All people have to do is check out Center Street and Minot Avenue. More jobs have been created in Auburn than has been seen in years. Auburn can go it alone. It doesn’t want to compete with Lewiston.

Auburn residents want to remember the past and work to improve what “has been” into something greater for their grandchildren. Auburn is a proud city, and residents don’t want to sweep the past under a rug. Auburn has no objection to collaborating with its sister city, without jumping into bed with Lewiston.

As Robert Reed stated in his guest column (March 5), “Lewiston officials must find ways to encourage new taxable development, whether it be commercial or residential property. If Lewiston does nothing, the businesses and homeowners currently footing the bill will, at some point, look elsewhere and relocate.”

COLAC does not agree with the Joint Charter Commission’s model. It is unrealistic.

Auburn’s law enforcement team is above reproach, and people are not afraid to walk Auburn streets, unlike those people who have to walk through Kennedy Park at night.

Lewiston’s costs are too high for Auburn taxpayers to absorb, so let’s not fall asleep at the wheel.

Everyone wants progress, but I feel that Auburn and Lewiston can become two of the best places to live, learn, work and play — without consolidating.

Leroy Walker Sr. is a member of the Coalition in Opposition to L-A Consolidation and an Auburn resident.

Leroy Walker Sr.

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