LEWISTON — City councilors confirmed Tuesday night that better communication with residents is one of their top priorities going forward.

Councilors said they wanted to a do better job of communicating information about city services and progress on city projects and also be better at finding out what’s going on.

“I think sometimes our citizens are quick to share complaints, but that’s because we are not sharing as much information as we could,” Councilor Mark Cayer said.

Councilors met for a planning session Feb. 8, voting on projects they considered most important.

On Tuesday, City Administrator Ed Barrett presented a list of their Feb. 8 work, arranging their overall goals into five categories: economic development, city operations, housing, community development and planning. More specific goals were listed under each category.

For example, one of the top goals under economic development called for continued work implementing the Riverfront Island Master Plan. The city must finish the first set of downtown improvements at Simard/Payne Memorial Park by the end of the year, with funding in place for a second phase by midsummer and those projects must be done by the end of 2015.

Council goals tied together in several areas, and communication was one of the big links. Councilor Nathan Libby said one way to improve downtown parking — one of the council’s specific goals — was to do a better job of letting residents and visitors know what is available and where.

Libby said public garages in Bangor advertise when free parking is available with big signs around the garages.

“For our parking, a lot of residents are not aware of when we offer free parking or that the free hour is free,” Libby said. “I think it’s a low-cost solution.”

Developing an overall plan to guide housing decisions is another specific goal, and Cayer said communication is part of that, too.

He said the city needs to do a better job of telling residents what’s happening with downtown developments and demolitions. The city is continuing to tear down old, ruined tenements and that’s helping, but it’s not a quick fix.

“We’ve done a lot, a ton of demolitions,” he said. “But when you drive through the target area, other than vacant lots, I don’t see anything different, and we are talking four years in and a lot of money. It feels like we’re not gaining anything, and I know that we are.”

Cayer said comments he’s heard from residents echo that, “so it would be nice to create some kind of roundtable for stakeholders.”

Barrett said his staff has worked with local development and banking officials behind the scenes.

Another council goal is to create a comprehensive housing plan, and that ties in with communication, Barrett said.

“My thinking right now, we’ll have a consolidated housing plan but it will be different by area,” he said. “We’ll have one plan for the River Front Island, and another for the large tenement district which might be different from other rental districts.”

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