This is in response to James Howaniec’s guest column (Feb. 26). Howaniec opposes the proposed merger of Lewiston and Auburn. He refers to the merger as if it were the brainchild of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. In fact, the idea was endorsed by hundreds of citizens who signed petitions asking that the issue be submitted for a municipal referendum.

For years the idea of a merger was unthinkable because of the poor relations between the two cities. I remember in the 1940s at doubleheader basketball games when Edward Little and Lewiston were playing other schools, the fans of each school would aggressively cheer for the other school’s opponent.

Much has changed since then. Animosity between the residents of the two cities has largely disappeared. Administrations in both cities have worked harmoniously to accomplish much together. A number of joint commissions and committees have been formed to undertake tasks involving shared facilities, such as the airport and the Lake Auburn water supply. It is now commonplace for the police and fire departments in each city to share personnel and equipment.

The concept of a merger appears to have evolved from the close working relationship between former long time Lewiston City Administrator Lucien Gosselin and Chip Morrison, the former City Manager in Auburn. As a result of their experience working separately and together to resolve municipal problems, they could see the benefits and savings which would result from a merger of the two cities.

The first step in the process was the election of a Joint Charter Commission composed of three representatives from each city. The Charter Commission employed experts on the structure of municipal governments to provide guidance in restructuring the governments of the two cities. Experts prepared a report of their work, which may be found on the Commission’s website.

An example of the experts’ conclusions appears at page 9 of their report regarding the position of the city administrator. In addition to eliminating one of the two administrators, the experts would do away with one of the two deputy administrators and one of the clerical positions. The cost savings from these changes is projected to be $319,400. The total savings from the merger are projected to be $1.2 million. As is evident from that example, the projected cost savings are based on facts, not fantasy.

Howaniec is clearly mistaken in rejecting out of hand the experts’ conclusions about the savings that a merger is likely to produce. Perhaps he will reconsider his objections once he has had a chance to read their report.

Curtis Webber, Auburn

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