AUBURN — The City Council’s work list for 2014 should focus on economic development, education and promoting communication, councilors said Thursday.

Those were the top focus areas in a goal-setting workshop Thursday in Auburn Hall. Councilors sat around tables in the middle of their chambers, surrounded by city department heads.

The meeting was a good start, according to City Manager Clinton Deschene. He suggested having a public meeting to review the budget process for residents later in January.

“But I need the council to nail down what we are going to do,” Deschene said.

Councilors said they’d like to have more regular goal-setting sessions throughout the year.

“I like sitting around a circle and having these conversations,” Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said. “It makes things less formal.”

Councilors said there are several places their top goals cross over. For example, bringing new business to the city depends on having a well educated workforce and that depends on educating potential workers well.

“To put it simply, economic development for this community is getting money to this community from outside,” Councilor Robert Hayes said. “Part of that comes from greater employment opportunities that provide greater incomes and doing things that might attract new business into this community. And part of it is promoting activities that bring people in from afar.”

Education was a top goal. Mayor LaBonte said the City Council needs to work with the schools.

“There is a huge potential for what the future of Edward Little High School could look like if we break down barriers,” LaBonte said. “We have probably two or three years, before school funding is available, to have a very open discussion about what high school education could look like.”

Councilors agreed it’s important but said it’s a discussion best saved for a joint meeting with the School Committee.

“If we could have a group discussion like we are having tonight, all the other items we’ve talked about can come out as well,” Hayes said.

Councilors said last summer’s community conversation series was a good start at boosting public information. The city hosted several neighborhood meetings with residents who might not regularly attend a Monday night council meeting.

But Hayes said the council needs to do more to make the regular meetings more inviting and less intimidating for residents.

“Maybe in some way we can make it less formal here,” Hayes said. “Maybe we should sit in the audience and have the public in front and let us listen.”

The council’s first regular meeting of the year is scheduled for Monday. Topics on the 5:30 p.m. workshop’s agenda include Community Development Block Grant budgets, fees the city charges to dig up streets and projects designed to revitalize the downtown.

Topics on the 7 p.m. regular agenda include discussions about the Spring Street bus station project, city demolitions and several closed-door executive sessions. The closed door meetings are scheduled to discuss county dispatch and Lewiston-Auburn 911, Auburn’s share of ownership of the Lewiston canals and negotiations with the firefighters union.

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