LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Voters in Lewiston and Auburn will make a big decision on Election Day: do they want their cities to stay separate—or merge into one?
Lewiston and Auburn have talked about the idea of merging for decades but this year they’re actually going to vote on it. It's an idea supporters say will help both cities prosper. But opponents say it would cost money and wouldn’t solve anything.
The consolidation plan was developed by a special, elected charter commission over the past three years. It would consolidate the government and school administration of both cities into a single city. Supporters say it would save two to four million dollars per year by having a single government. They say taxpayers would save money, schools in a new, larger combined district would be able to offer more and better classes and the combined cities would have the chance for a brighter future. On Friday, supporters said ten former mayors, including former Lewiston mayor John Orestes, support the plan.
"To me the strength of the consolidation is putting together the spirit of the two cities and an energy going forward, an energy for growth, energy for education and an energy that will keep our children and grandchildren here to partake of the city we have all our lives," Orestis said at a press conference.
But opponents, led by former mayor Jim Howaniec, say the merger would actually cost taxpayers more because the cities would need to even out labor costs and contracts between the various unions. Howaniec argued the merger won’t make things better.
"We also don’t see how by eliminating an imaginary line across the Androscoggin River that somehow makes this area more attractive to businesses. There’s a certain level of Portland wanna-be-ism that’s part of this effort," he said.
Supporters say they think it will be a very close vote but opponents say they believe most people in the two cities are against it. Residents vote on the merger November 7.