More than 100 Auburn residents attended a public hearing last night at Central Maine Community College on whether their city should merge with neighboring Lewiston to become one city.
Those in favor of the merger said it would help the cities operate more efficiently and boost economic development. But some opponents worrid that their interests will be diluted if the two cities merge.
Speakers were about evenly split between supporting the effort and opposing it. Long-time Auburn resident Betty Perkins said she's against the idea because she's worried taxes will increase.
"And when you live on Social Security, and you live in a house, you can't afford to have your taxes go up," Perkins said.
But James Ayotte, who lives in Auburn and works in Lewiston, said he supports the merger, for several reasons.
"I think less bureaucracy is a big one," he said. "For some reason, people paint this as bigger government. But it's actually the opposite of that. When you remove two sets of councils and two mayors and go down to one, that should be seen as less government."
Auburn resident Kristy Phinney agreed. She said that together, the two cities will attract more jobs and be overall stronger economically.
"The power that comes when you're a city of over 60,000 people I think brings you new opportunities that aren't available as separate entities," she said.
But Auburn resident John Turner said he's concerned that the risks outweigh the benefits for his city.
"Auburn has a substantial amount of land to grow into. Lewiston doesn't. Lewiston has several mill buildings that are going to need to be tended, Auburn doesn't."
This is the fourth time over the past two decades that the cities have considered joining. Voters will decide the matter at the ballot box this November.