LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — The last time two municipalities merged in Maine was in 1922, when Warren G. Harding was president and the teapot dome scandal was raging.
But the rarity of such a union isn’t stopping residents of Lewiston and Auburn from considering joining together to become Lewiston-Auburn.
On Tuesday, residents have the final say on whether to combine two former mill cities separated by the Androscoggin River into a city with nearly 60,000 residents and the state’s largest school system.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who grew up in Lewiston’s Little Canada neighborhood, is among the proponents.
But residents, like their city leaders, are divided. Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald supports a merger, but Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonte is opposed. Both are Republicans.
“People are adamant either one way or the other. It seems that there aren’t so many people who’re ambivalent, or sitting on the fence,” said Linda Simones, who runs the Simone’s Hot Dog Stand, a popular breakfast and lunch eatery, with her husband.
It’s an emotional issue. The cities are partners on some matters, rivals on others. It’s been that way for more than a century.
A draft charter and consolidation agreement is up for a vote.
Under the proposal, Auburn City Hall would house the twin-city government. The police and fire departments would merge. The combined municipality would be led by 10 city councilors and a manager alongside a mayor with no administrative duties or term limits.
Earlier merger studies have identified between $2.3 million and $4.2 million in annual savings, resulting in a modest property tax of around $100 a year.
The last time two municipalities joined was in 1922, when Dover and Foxcroft became Dover-Foxcroft. The town came together two years after women earned the right to vote, and women played a role in bringing the two communities together, said Mary Annis, president of Dover-Foxcroft Historical Society.
After the vote, there was no looking back.
“Everything’s been going just fine and dandy since then,” Annis said.