The person who led Princeton’s merger effort, Anton Lahnston, now resides in Maine and has been following the merger activities here. Here is how he responded to a Lewiston city councilor who asserted that the two efforts “could not be more different.”
I disagree. I think there are some aspects of the Princeton consolidation that are quite informative for Lewiston and Auburn and that the LA consolidation challenges are not a “far cry” from consolidation in the Princetons.
Like LA, redundancy, inefficiencies and related costs existed in the Princetons. Both the Princeton Borough and Township of Princeton had full time administrations, separate departments for police, public works, engineering, information technology/systems, as well as separate courts and different ordinances – just to name a few. At the same time however, the two municipalities in Princeton shared 13 services, including schools, recreation, and fire departments. And we found that even in the shared services in Princeton – like LA – there were competing agendas contributing significant costs and the loss of precious time by staff and elected officials as they attempted to provide the degree of service effectiveness residents expected.
Two other similarities are important. First, in Princeton there was a very strong and vocal organization opposed to consolidation called “Preserve our Historic Borough”. Their campaign was a very big factor in the work of the Princeton Consolidation Commission requiring many meetings and intense dialogues. Sometimes we agreed on changes, sometimes not, but in the end it led to a stronger consolidation. Second, both Princeton and Lewiston-Auburn have major institutions of higher education within their boundaries that deserve to be served by efficient and vital government.
The pathway to consolidation in Princeton was challenging. Not unlike Lewiston and Auburn the topic of consolidation was constant for more than 60 years and put to a vote for the fourth time in 2011. In Princeton we took many of the same steps as already engaged in LA, and ultimately voted to consolidate which has helped the two Princetons move to a brighter future.
Finally, among our many learnings during the years of work on Princeton’s consolidation we found that contentious and divergent points of view are necessary and helpful in making better informed decisions on consolidation.