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911 Cost-Sharing Agreement Between Maine Cities Gets Review

The Auburn City Council passed a resolution in December authorizing its city manager to “enter into discussions with the Lewiston City administrator to establish a funding formula for L-A 911.”

by Andrew Rice, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine / February 5, 2020

(TNS) — The City Council agreed Tuesday to begin negotiations with Auburn over how to fund L-A 911, the shared emergency communications department of the two cities.

While an agreement between the two cities has been in place largely unchanged since 1978, the Auburn City Council passed a resolve in December authorizing City Manager Peter Crichton to “enter into discussions with the Lewiston City Administrator to establish a funding formula for L-A 911,” which is shared evenly between the two cities.

On Tuesday, Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett said Auburn would like to negotiate the agreement, indicating that Auburn would like the agreement to be based on population. If that were the case, funding would be roughly 60% for Lewiston, 40% for Auburn.

“They don’t believe the current formula is equitable,” Barrett told the council. “There are a number of ways we can look at allocating costs.”

He said with the council’s permission, he will enter into discussions with Crichton, which could also include looking at how much it would cost for each city to provide its own service.

Asked about the issue Tuesday, Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque said, “It’s time that Auburn and Lewiston enter into fair and mutually beneficial agreements. Based on research, we are the only joint 911 agency in Maine that doesn’t split cost on population or use.”

According to Auburn’s resolve in December, a review of 15 regional emergency communications agencies showed that eight are using a “per capita or population-based formula,” four are using a county tax model, one is utilizing the city tax, and only two — Auburn-Lewiston and Brunswick — have no funding formula.

According to Auburn’s fiscal 2020 budget, Auburn will spend $1.13 million on the 911 communications center this year.

The initial 1978 agreement was re-upped in 2000, keeping the 50/50 funding.

With a 6-1 vote Tuesday, the Lewiston council’s decision also directs Barrett to “review whether circumstances have changed since the 1978 and 2000 agreements sufficiently to warrant modification of the currently effective interlocal agreement.”

Councilor Zack Pettengill, who voted against the measure, said, “Again, another shared service that Auburn is looking to not pay what’s needed to fund the system. Time and time again we come up against this. I’m not a fan of us having to pay more than the cost of Auburn, but I know there are many ways to look at this.”

Lewiston resident Matt Roy said during public comment that “Auburn is never going to be happy with the current arrangement,” and urged Lewiston to join the Androscoggin County system, arguing it would be a cost savings for both Lewiston and Auburn.

Councilor Lee Clement reminded councilors that no change can take place in the current agreement without “acquiescence from both sides.”

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