Public Works

Public Works

Public Works

Both cities have reduced positions in public works in recent years. Consolidation offers an opportunity to offset some of those reductions and reinforce current service levels.The Public Works Workgroup was tasked with considering and making recommendations on public works services, infrastructure and related functions delivered by utilities and / or separate authorities (including sewer and water). Regarding general public works services, functions examined included departmental administration, arborist, building maintenance, electrical, engineering, recreation, solid waste and recycling, stormwater, street and highway maintenance, and vehicle / fleet maintenance. The workgroup also considered options for the Auburn-Lewiston Airport.

The options and recommendations presented below offer an overview for how services might be provided by a unified government. The number of trees, miles of streets, and quantity of water consumed and processed will not change if the cities merge. Some efficiencies may be found in administrative areas and some cost savings might be found by adjusting delivery models. It should be noted, however, that public works operations have seen the elimination of dozens of positions in recent years, and the sense of the workgroup is that there is little room for additional cuts without compromising the ability to provide current service levels to the community.

General Services

Administrator

The day-to-day administration of the two public works departments is performed with a combination of professional and clerical staff. Lewiston has a director, inventory manager, account clerk and principal clerk. The account clerk also serves as a dispatcher for the department. Auburn has a director, planner and office manager.

Merged Baseline

All the administrative positions are retained in the department, although they would move so they are working at a single location. The less senior of the two directors would assume a deputy role with no change in salary. No leveling up is anticipated to occur because there are no substantially duplicate positions. (No cost impact)

Model 1

No deputy director position is created, and the less senior of the two directors’ positions would be eliminated. No other administrative staff reductions are projected under this option. (Savings of $120,000)

Workgroup Recommendation: Merged Baseline

After consideration of the current operations and needs of a merged city, the workgroup endorsed the merged baseline model.

Arborist

The arborist positions function in a similar manner in each city and could be combined to function as a single arborist group. In addition to maintaining trees in various public areas in the cities, the arborist positions also perform highway duties during snow events.

Merged Baseline

All existing positions with the arborist title would be retained by the unified city. Lewiston has an arborist team manager and two landscapers; Auburn has two arborists. All five positions would be retained. There would likely be some excess equipment identified during the merger that could be sold as surplus. (No cost impact)

Model 1

Although not recommended by the workgroup because there is currently a challenge to keep up with existing workload, reduction of an arborist role would bring savings to a merged city. There would still be three landscaper / arborist positions and nine tree maintenance staff members. (Savings of $49,240)

Workgroup Recommendation: Merged Baseline

After consideration of the current operations and needs of a merged city, the workgroup endorsed the merged baseline model.

Building Maintenance Operations

Similar services are provided by the two cities. Lewiston employs a director, a supervisor and three workers; Auburn employs four full-time workers and a part-time worker. Both cities contract out custodial duties. There would be no anticipated change in the number or type of buildings used by the two cities.

Merged Baseline / Workgroup Recommendation

The operations of the two cities could be unified under a single structure with no change in staffing levels. (No cost impact)

Electrical Division

Varied approaches to electrical functions in each city make comparison more challenging. Lewiston takes care of a significant number of streetlights; Auburn contracts out this work to Central Maine Power. Electrical division responsibilities include traffic light functions in each city. Work completed by the Lewiston electrical group also includes electrical work at wastewater and drinking water pump stations; in Auburn, that work is completed by the Auburn Water and Wastewater Districts. In both cities, the electrical functions include electrical permit inspections. In the workgroup’s view, current electrical division staffing is probably low. It is unclear the pathway for the two cities to merge their streetlight operations if merger were to occur, but it was the consensus of the workgroup that electrical functions could be harmonized into one group.

Merged Baseline / Workgroup Recommendation

This option retains all staff and merges functions into a single department with adjusted responsibilities. The new city would have the four positions from Lewiston (electrical superintendent, senior electrician and two line persons) and the two positions from Auburn (city electrician and electrician [currently vacant]). There would be an adjustment in responsibilities if a water authority began service in Lewiston. (No cost impact)

Engineering

The two engineering departments function in similar ways and have equivalent responsibilities. Both have the practice of using contracted engineers for larger projects. It would be relatively easy to bring the two operations into one and it might allow for greater efficiency of operation through specialization. An important consideration is that the Lewiston staff is unionized; Auburn is not.

Merged Baseline

All staff in the department would be retained in the merged city – a city engineer, GIS coordinator, three project engineers, two engineer technicians and an administrative assistant[1] from Lewiston, and a deputy director / city engineer, assistant engineer, two project engineers and administrative assistant from Auburn. (No cost impact)

Model 1

This is the same as the merged baseline except that a single administrative assistant position is eliminated. The workgroup believes it might be difficult to eliminate this position because of the collateral duties it performs for other public works divisions. (Savings of $49,300)

Workgroup Recommendation: Merged Baseline

After consideration of the current operations and needs of a merged city, the workgroup endorsed the merged baseline model.

Recreation

The two recreation departments have many common day-to-day tasks and offer many similar programs. Lewiston has three full-time staff and Auburn has five. Lewiston operates a seasonal outdoor pool and Auburn operates an indoor turf facility. The Norway Savings Bank Arena is operated as an independent enterprise fund by Auburn and is kept separate from recreation programs.

Merged Baseline

All existing recreation department positions would be retained in the merged city. Lewiston has a deputy director, program coordinator and clerk; Auburn has a director, administrative assistant, building maintenance technician, program coordinator and a specialist. All existing facilities and programs would be expected to continue, although some programs would be unified across the cities. The Norway Savings Bank Arena would remain a separate facility. (No cost impact)

Model 1

This is the same as the merged baseline except that the deputy director position would be eliminated. (Savings of $62,400)

Workgroup Recommendation: Model 1

After consideration of the current operations and needs of a merged city, the workgroup endorsed model 1.

Solid Waste and Recycling

Solid waste is handled in a similar manner in both cities with a contracted service collecting the solid waste and the cost for the service being in the general fund. Lewiston and Auburn use a contract for collecting recycled materials. Auburn is a member of the MMWAC waste-to-energy facility; Lewiston is not a member but does have a waste-for-ash agreement with MMWAC. Lewiston operates a landfill, but is limited to the type of waste that it can receive at the location. Lewiston has four staff members (superintendent, equipment operator, a worker and weigh station attendant) assigned to solid waste; Auburn supervises its contract with administrative staff.

Merged Baseline / Workgroup Recommendation

The two systems could be harmonized with a single agreement for solid waste and recycling services. The employees that supervise the landfill and the waste contracts would all be retained. The new city would seek to retain the current agreements with MMWAC. (No cost impact)

Stormwater Operations

Maintenance of the stormwater system is managed by the public works department in both cities, with the work being done by highway staff. Lewiston funds its operations through a stormwater fee that is based on the impervious surface of a property and not the assessed value. The fee structure also includes revenue from tax-exempt properties. In Auburn, all expenses are funded through general property tax.

Merged Baseline

The existing public works staff from streets and highways would continue to maintain the stormwater system under a unified operation. (No cost impact)

Model 1 / Workgroup Recommendation

The workgroup believes that a stormwater fee would promote a merged city’s ability to maintain the stormwater system. The workgroup agreed that the methodology of funding stormwater would be determined by the officers of the consolidated city, and that a cost-benefit analysis should be performed. (Cost impact is unknown, pending a decision on allocation of costs among all property owners of the unified city)

Streets and Highways

Both cities provide street and highway maintenance in similar manners, although Auburn has more rural areas than Lewiston and shares its winter maintenance responsibilities with the State of Maine Department of Transportation in certain areas. The number of highway personnel has been reduced over the years, and the workgroup believes it is now at a minimal level to maintain plowing services during serious storms. The workgroup suggested that the community could improve service delivery by contracting for additional services from private vendors during peak events.

Lewiston operates with a deputy director, operations team manager, two district Team managers, a traffic worker, a street opening coordinator and 33 highway workers / equipment operators. Auburn has two operations managers, five highway supervisors and 30 highway workers / equipment operators.

Merged Baseline

All positions would be retained in a consolidated operation. Services would be consolidated based on tasks and all facilities would likely remain in the interim. Some duplicate capital equipment might not be necessary in the future. (No cost impact)

Model 1

Reduce the staffing complement by two mid-level management positions while still retaining an appropriate span of control. This would also provide more workers for necessary tasks. Under this option an operations manager and highway supervisor position would be changed to an equipment operator position. (Savings of $73,200)

Workgroup Recommendation: Merged Baseline

After consideration of the current operations and needs of a merged city, the workgroup endorsed the merged baseline model.

Vehicle Maintenance

Both departments provide a full range of vehicle maintenance services to the vehicle fleets of the two cities. Each maintenance facility is capable of working on any vehicle in the fleet although certain specialty work, including some fire apparatus maintenance, is contracted out. Neither facility would have the capacity to maintain the combined fleet from a unified city in one location. Both fleet maintenance operations are working at full capacity, although there might be some savings through a unified fleet management system. No barriers were identified for a joint fleet operation. Lewiston has ten employees in the vehicle maintenance function and Auburn has nine.

Merged Baseline / Workgroup Recommendation

All positions would be retained in a consolidated city, and both facilities would remain in operation. Responsibilities would be divided based on vehicle type. For example, light trucks and cars could be done at one location; heavy duty trucks and equipment could be done at the other. An evening shift should be maintained after consolidation. (No cost impact)

Utilities and Authorities

The utilities currently work as enterprise funds that are designed to cover the costs of their operations through charges to ratepayers. As such, a comprehensive fiscal analysis of potential staffing or operational changes was not conducted because the rates would be adjusted based on the changes in expense. However, there may be efficiencies in operations with corresponding cost savings in the future that could be better pursued as a single community.

Wastewater Treatment

The Lewiston Auburn Water Pollution Control Authority was created by Maine legislative charter about 40 year ago. The authority is governed by a seven-person board with three positions representing Lewiston, the three representing Auburn and a seventh positon appointed by the remainder of the board that is appointed for a three-year term. This position alternates between cities. The LAWPCA also provides treatment for septic waste from approximately 20 neighboring communities. The apportionment of cost to operate the treatment plant is made with a detailed formula that takes into consideration the volume of waste as well as waste strength.

Workgroup Recommendation

The consensus recommendation of the workgroup is to leave LAWPCA as a free-standing operation. There is no direct impact from consolidation other than a minor change in governance. Auburn has greater likelihood than Lewiston regarding future dependency on the treatment plant since it has more land mass and capacity to grow.

Water and Wastewater Operations

The two cities receive this service in substantially different manners. Lewiston provides the service through its public works department and it is funded through enterprise funds by ratepayers. Auburn residents receive their services through a separate authority. While either method could provide the service to a unified city, the workgroup expressed preference for a separate authority by expanding the existing Auburn Water District and Auburn Sewer District to include the City of Lewiston. This method is preferred because it would retain the critical filtration waiver for the water supply that prevents the need for a filtration plant. A filtration plant would cost in excess of $30 million to construct and more than $1 million a year to operate. Also, it is easier for the district to be expanded in size to include Lewiston than it would be to dissolve the district and expand the municipal operations. The use of Lewiston Water and Sewer employees to help plow roads could continue through a contract.

Workgroup Recommendation

Concurrent with the formation of a new city, the Auburn Water District and Sewerage District would be modified to include the geography of Lewiston. The governance structure and name would need to be modified. It is projected that all current employees would retain their positions, although certain economies of scale in billing and administration may lead to savings.

Several cost-sharing inter-local agreements provide for shared watershed protection efforts, the Lake Auburn intake and pretreatment facility, water quality management program, and joint ultraviolet facility design and construction. Additional savings can likely be realized in the areas of meter reading, business office functions (including billings and receivables), single inventory, reduction of specialized equipment and single standby personnel. CGR did not closely examine the districts, and to fully realize additional savings may require further study and analysis.

Auburn-Lewiston Airport

The Auburn-Lewiston Airport operates as a quasi-municipal corporation. The change to the governance structure under a single municipality would likely result in a shift of the number and category of representatives on the board. The only change would be in committee appointments. In the future, the workgroup believes consideration should be given to the airport becoming a self-sufficient “transit authority” instead of a municipal operation. This could possibly include additional property development around the airport, including parking garages and bus operations.


 

Summary of Public Works Savings / (Costs)

Based on workgroup recommendations:

Administration

-

Arborist

-

Building Maintenance

-

Electrical

-

Engineering

-

Recreation

$62,400

Solid Waste and Recycling

-

Stormwater Operations

-

Streets and Highways

-

Vehicle Maintenance

-

 

Annual Recurring Savings

 

$62,400

 

Advantages of Unification and Scale

In the course of the Commission and Workgroup’s discussions, some potential functional advantages of merger were raised – beyond the financial implications presented above. As noted earlier in this section, both public works departments operating separately have had to reduce staff over the recent past. This has compromised their ability to maintain service levels. A larger combined department has the potential to mitigate those separate reductions, while at the same time permitting more specialization of staff. Such specialization would be particularly helpful in engineering, where technical items are generally outsourced.

 


 



[1] This position supports all Lewiston Public Works divisions, but is shown in this budget.

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