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Library, town center among top issues facing Cape Elizabeth Town Council

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Library, town center among top issues facing Cape Elizabeth Town Council

CAPE ELIZABETH — At its last workshop of the year on Monday, the Town Council loosely outlined and discussed its goals for 2013.

The ideas ranged from specific projects and programs to broad structural town procedures and development.

Some of the broad and larger goals included developing a more vibrant town center, becoming more "business friendly" and revamping the Thomas Memorial Library project.

Town Councilor Jessica Sullivan, who is a former library trustee and the council liaison to the Thomas Memorial Library Foundation, said she is disappointed the $6 million bond failed in the Nov. 6 election and hopes the council can develop a new plan replace the failing facility.

The failure of the library bond tied into a few of the council's more specific goals including better communication and town branding.

Councilor Frank Governali said the town has improved its communication with the public, a 2012 council goal, but needs to develop a better strategy for engaging the community by exploring the use of social media and technology.

Councilors discussed the possibilty of including the use of Twitter as a tool for participation by the public during meetings, centralizing town information to one website and creating a e-newsletter.

"We need to be utilizing the technology we have and the ones we're just starting to get into," council Chairman-elect Jim Walsh said.

Sullivan agreed and added, "any way we can be better at communicating and have more open communication is a good thing."

Councilor David Sherman said the library bond failure is an example of why the town needs to develop better communication and organizing strategies.

Better branding of the town could also help promote projects like the library, Town Manager Mike McGovern said, also suggesting improvements to Police Department communication and access to information.

The council also discussed methods for more thorough vetting of items that appear on the its agenda.

Councilor Caitlin Jordan said some of the issues that come before the council could be handled individually and sometimes end up wasting time and money, citing an issue last year about the regulation of roosters.

"Sometimes it seems like we're taking up individual issues that turn into a town-wide thing," she said.

Councilor Kathy Ray echoed Jordan's concern.

"We need to be more mindful of what goes on the council agenda," she said. "I'd like to feel better and make sure it's a Town Council issue and not someone else's issue."

In a related matter, the council discussed making sure various committees are adhering to the charge of the council.

Ray said the council should consider continued training for committee chairs and conducting outreach to people who are interested in being on a committee.

McGovern said a recent Zoning Board of Appeals meeting turned into more of a courtroom hearing than citizens meeting with their town government, probably because the board is weighted with lawyers.

"You can't have lawyers on the dais cross-examining citizens," he said.

Other council goals include:

• More collaboration between the council and the School Board.

• Developing a composting program.

• Exploring the availability of town-owned facility spaces.

• Check progress on the Crescent Beach negotiations.

• Solar-paneled street lights.

• Implementation of the master plan for the Fort Williams arboretum.

• Improvements to the Town Hall chamber.

• Establishing a system to verify residency of people using the town's transfer station.

• Discussion of an ordinance change for notification of abutters when permitting.

• And connecting a small section of the Shore Road path to an existing pathway at Fort Williams park.

At their its meeting on Dec. 10, the council will act on a short-term rental permit fee, a proposed sign ordinance and the adoption of a revised miscellaneous offenses ordinance.

Councilors will also confirm Walsh as chairman and make other committee appointments, and set the 2013 meeting schedule.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or wgraff@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.