YARMOUTH — Officials from four towns met with the Greater Portland Council of Governments Tuesday to discuss regional needs and ideas that will be used to guide the organization.
The discussion with representatives from Cumberland, Falmouth, Freeport and Yarmouth at Merrill Memorial Library was the first of seven meetings that the organization plans to hold throughout Cumberland County.
GPCOG, a regional, nonprofit planning agency that represents 26 cities and towns, as well as Cumberland County, will be hosting meetings through the end of February. The next one is planned for Dec. 2 in Casco; the remaining meetings have not yet been scheduled. The information gathered at the meetings will be used to create a strategic plan, which will be presented next June.
“It will help us understand how GPCOG can save money, innovate with technology, and work together to address the big challenges of the region,” Executive Director Kristina Egan said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, two dozen town councilors and town managers from the four towns discussed what they would like to see implemented regionally. After a list was compiled, they voted for their top three priorities.
The top two choices, which were tied with 17 percent of the votes each, were regionalization of services and property-tax reform. Two priorities that each received 14 percent of votes were looking at ways to reduce the cost of education per pupil, and developing a system to share ideas and best practices between towns.
Other priorities that were discussed in the brainstorming session were transportation improvements, aging in place, and attracting and retaining young people to the towns.
Freeport Town Manager Peter Joseph said Tuesday’s meeting was “a continuation of efforts we’ve had in the past.” He said it’s important for officials from towns in the area to meet.
“It’s a natural sub-region of the greater Portland area … and this builds regional unity,” Joseph said.
Yarmouth Town Manager Nat Tupper said meetings like this are productive and lead to good plans and ideas.
“There are very few opportunities for our elected officials to come together and share ideas,” Tupper said. “It inevitably leads to progress on things such as tax reform and aging in place.”
Egan said bringing town officials together to gives them the opportunity to develop ideas they may not have on their own, and also allows them to share what is and isn’t working in their individual towns.
“We’re very creative in Maine, and towns are constantly creating solutions to municipal issues,” Egan said. “It’s important for towns to meet and share ideas so we’re not reinventing the wheel.”
Town officials from Yarmouth, Freeport, Cumberland and Falmouth met Tuesday night at Merrill Memorial Library in Yarmouth for a brainstorming session led by the Greater Portland Council of Governments. Yarmouth Town Manager Nat Tupper, at right, wrote down a list of ideas during one part of the meeting.