Running concurrent with the expected release of a study on Lake Auburn is a public utilities battle over how Lewiston and Auburn share costs associated with delivering drinking water from the lake.

A complaint filed using the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s 10-person complaint process claims that current water rates for Auburn Water District customers are unfair due to the nature of cost-sharing agreements between Lewiston and Auburn.

Most of the cost-sharing agreements between the cities, dating back several years, call for a 50/50 split for expenses relating to the Lake Auburn treatment facility and watershed protection efforts.

However, the Auburn Water District trustees believe that costs should be set based on water usage. Lewiston accounts for about 64% of water drawn from the lake, while Auburn accounts for 36%.

While the complaint process is still playing out, the cost-sharing agreements could play a role in how the cities move forward following the release of the study.

Water District Trustee Dan Bilodeau of Auburn argues that if a filtration plant is eventually needed due to a loss of the waiver, Auburn would save millions if cost-sharing was based on usage. Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque agrees.

“At the end of the day, every taxpayer in Auburn has been subsidizing the water for Lewiston,” Levesque said. “It’s unfair, and everybody can see it except for Lewiston.”

Lewiston officials have argued that the city has negotiated all previous cost-sharing agreements “in a fair and open manner” and that both cities benefit from the shared water system.

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