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COLAC releases impact study of proposed merger of Auburn and Lewiston

COLAC, the grassroots organization that is leading the opposition in Lewiston and Auburn to the proposed consolidation of both cities, has released a list of the many impacts it says the local residents will experience as the result of a consolidation proposed by the Joint Charter Commission of Lewiston and Auburn.

“We have analyzed all of the documents submitted to the city councils of both cities,” said C.O.L.A.C. Chairman Jim Howaniec, former mayor of Lewiston. “We see many troubling, expensive impacts that we believe the voters should understand before voting this November.”

The Impact Study has been published on COLAC’s website at www.colacmaine.org/impact-study.html

According to COLAC, here are the impacts, to name a few, that residents can expect to have to deal with in a consolidation:

A Storm Water Fee, commonly known as a “rain tax,” now assessed in Lewiston, is likely planned by the Joint Charter Commission for Auburn residences and businesses, including not-for-profits.

City-wide revaluation in Lewiston will have to be accomplished to get Lewiston property values up to 100%, as Auburn is already at 101%. Lewiston is in the low 80% range, according to sources.

Property tax shift to Lewiston residential homeowners as the result of the revaluation is likely as residential properties are commonly hit harder in a revaluation than businesses.

Potential for layoffs, not only at the senior administrative level, but also in the rank and file, will likely occur in a quest for savings.

Auburn taxpayers will likely pay nearly half of combined cities expenses but have only two-thirds the residents as Lewiston, as Auburn’s taxable valuation is almost equal to Lewiston’s.

Transition costs into the millions, including union cost leveling, are likely.  These transition costs would not be one time, but would be recurring as wages will increase with new base levels negotiated.

No meaningful cost savings can be proven by time of vote because a future city council and voting mayor will have total budgetary powers.

New public safety building for larger centralized operation will likely be needed with debt incurred to build.

Auburn Hall most likely will not be large enough to house city hall departments under one roof as the Joint Charter Commission has deemed appropriate. A brand-new city hall with parking, will likely cost in the $30 million range.

Storm water separation is still to completed in Lewiston, requiring investment in the millions.

Canal maintenance costs are inevitable as the canals approach 150 years in operation.

Auburn taxpayers would assume all Bates Mill obligations, which are now the liability of just Lewiston taxpayers, such as unbuilt parking garages. ? There are three more parking garages to be built at a cost upwards of $40 million from some estimates.

Every person, business and non-profit in both cities would have to provide for its new address on wherever the city identification appears.  In the case of duplicate street or avenue names, the address change may impact street number and street name, as well as city name.

Residents in either city do not know what obligations the other city may agree to, between November 2017 and January 2020. Such obligations can be incurred at any time after the vote and before the Consolidation Date, recommended by JCC at January 2, 2020.

Auburn Fire and Rescue service would change and return to United Ambulance (or other ambulance provider) for transport of patients.

Letterhead changes will be needed for stationary and billing forms as city addresses will change.

Return addresses on outside of letters and billing envelopes will change.

Website modifications will be needed to reflect the name of the new city name on the address line.

There are plans to build a new central fire station and three fire sub-stations in Lewiston with an estimated cost of $20 million. If the new structures are bonded after January 2020, Auburn taxpayers will help pay off the loan.

Due to a large number of citizens not in favor of the merger, a divisive environment is developing as the campaign heats up.

After the merger date, Auburn citizens/taxpayers will be responsible for any obligations entered into by Lewiston city government, and Lewiston citizens/taxpayers will be responsible for obligations entered into by Auburn city government. Unless disclosed to the voters, these obligations will be assented to blindly in the voting booth by the voters who vote “Yes.”

While Auburn and Lewiston would turn inward to sort out how to organize the new merged city, other Maine cities continue to look outward for new economic development.

For more information on COLAC, see www.colacmaine.org/impact-study.html.

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