A disassembled jet with it’s engines torn apart sits in the largest hangar Friday afternoon at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — A rare, joint special meeting of the Lewiston and Auburn city councils is set for 5:30 p.m. Monday in the Auburn Council Chambers to address a proposed change to the makeup of the board overseeing the cities’ municipal airport.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss and resolve a request to modify the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport interlocal agreement, a document signed in 1979 establishing a board of directors to operate, maintain and improve the airport. It will also involve an executive session of the joint council.

Jonathan LaBonte, the chairman of the airport board and de facto manager of the airport since the March departure of previous manager James Scheller, has put forward a proposal to change the makeup of the board from nine members to five. LaBonte is a full-time employee of the city of Auburn as transportation systems director.

The current makeup of the airport board is a mix of municipal staff, elected officials, members of the public, and representatives from several nonprofit organizations from both cities and Androscoggin County, LaBonte said. That mix, coupled with varying terms of service for members of the board, is not working, he said.

A golf cart exits the giant hangar Friday afternoon at Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, where the staff is dealing with abandoned jets and equipment left behind when Elite Airways left. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

He has proposed that the board include a chairman and four additional board members — two from Auburn, two from Lewiston — who are city employees with professional experience and expertise in governance and issues including policy, public works, budgeting, and finance and economic development.

The city administrator or manager from each city would appoint the employees, who would have a fixed term and would not require additional expenditures, under the plan.


The proposal was brought before Lewiston and Auburn city councils earlier this month and both decided to postpone any action until May 15. Now, the joint meeting has been called to discuss and possibly vote on the proposed changes.

LaBonte says the changes would make the board more efficient and stable, allowing it to focus on the betterment of the municipal airport, which has seen a lot of turnover and frustration in the past year or more. Three seats on the board are vacant.

The empty terminal Friday afternoon at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

During the Auburn City Council discussion on May 1, Marc Blais, who is a board member and a pilot, expressed concerns about eliminating pilots from the board, as did Tom Ward of Skyward Aviation.

A disassembled jet with it’s engines torn apart sits abandoned Friday afternoon in the largest hangar at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LaBonte said that to his knowledge, no other municipal airport in Maine has pilots on the board and that the Federal Aviation Administration’s guidance on board structure is that if you have pilots on the board, you run the risk of conflict of interest, especially as the board sets rates and fees for services and other financial matters.

LaBonte is suggesting the establishment of an advisory board when the need arises that could include pilots for their collective experience and perspective on issues that affect them and the airport.

Scheller was hired as the airport manager on Jan. 14, 2022, signed a four-year contract and left at the end of March.

The Sun Journal reached out to officials in both cities, but those contacted declined to talk about Monday’s joint special meeting. Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque would say only, “Auburn’s goal is to ensure we are fully maximizing assets for the betterment of the region.”

The airport’s board of directors is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Office furniture, foreground, parts and specialized equipment used to disassemble jets sit Friday afternoon at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

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