Community input helps shape Topsham's agenda for 2016

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TOPSHAM — Input from neighborhood meetings held last year, with a few added suggestions this year, have helped to form several areas of focus for town officials in the coming year.

The issues include traffic, taxes and accommodations for bicyclists and pedestrians. 

The Board of Selectmen garnered feedback Oct. 19 and 26 at meetings held at the Topsham Public Library. Fewer than 10 members of the public attended each meeting, Town Manager Rich Roedner said Tuesday.

“I don’t think that there’s really anything that we heard that would change (next year’s) priorities,” he said, adding that some things could be added to that plan.

A desire by selectmen to hear more from their constituents was what inspired the neighborhood meetings, the manager said. Town officials sought feedback on what they were doing well, could do better, are not doing but should be doing, or are doing that they shouldn’t continue anymore, he added.

The board members noted that they weren’t there just to listen, but that some action would come out of the meetings, and would be reported back to the public, Roedner said.

The town synthesized nearly 30 pages of suggestions into eight “areas of special concern and effort for 2016,” according to a recommendations review posted at

“We can’t do everything,” Roedner said. “We don’t have the money, we don’t have the staff, we don’t have the manpower to do everything.”

So town officials focused on those items of greatest community interest.

They include speed control and traffic; communication to residents; access in the form of bicycling, walkability, trails and sidewalks; balancing growth and development in areas like parking and access, Topsham Fair Mall vitality, and community impacts, and community involvement.

There are also areas where special attention will be paid to traffic issues, according to the report, including consideration of a Lower Village roundabout to improve and slow traffic flow on Lower Main Street; restriping at Topsham Fair Mall Road to reduce lane widths and speed, and improving opportunities for bicycle and pedestrian access.

The environment – covering matters like stormwater, solar power and plastic bag use – was another often-expressed issue.

Taxes, new sources of funding, limiting new programs, and the service efficiencies are also getting attention.

“Taxes are a result of the decisions we collectively make, and the valuation of the community,” the review states. “We strive every day to not waste taxpayer’s money, while we provide the services requested, and we look to less expensive ways to provide those services, and will continue to do so.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.