AUBURN — So far in January, city councilors had gotten a refresher course on policies and procedures and toured Auburn Hall’s operations and Police Department.

Their orientation continued Saturday morning, as most of them climbed into a van to tour areas they’ll likely be discussing over the next two years.

“I think we’re going to need all the help we can get,” said Councilor Grady Burns, one of five on the City Council who are new to the job, all elected in November.

Some areas inspired longer discussions, such as New Auburn. The city has been discussing creating a trail along the Androscoggin River in that area and redeveloping the downtown. Councilors spent 45 minutes parked off Mill Street, looking at maps and discussing the reasons for redeveloping the area and how to accomplish it.

And some discussions were quick. Councilors simply drove past the former Lunn and Sweet building on Minot Avenue, the site of Beijing-based Miracle Enterprise’s proposed development. Developers hope to turn that property, formerly known as The Barn, into a medical/wellness destination for wealthy Chinese citizens.

“The fact is, we don’t have much to report on this beyond what you already know,” said Deputy City Manager Denis D’Auteuil. “At this point, they are working with their architects and engineers and there really is not a role for us to play at this point. As they want to bring us in, they will bring us in.”

Overall, it was good chance for the new councilors to see things that they’d only read about.

“As councilors, we are responsible for understanding the full scope of city government, to oversee it and guide the policy,” Burns said. “This is a good opportunity to look at the facilities we have and the challenges we are facing. I think it’s going to guide our decision-making, especially because we are all together. When we go back to the council chambers, we can all be on the same page.”

Only Mayor Jonathan LaBonte and Ward 1 Councilor Jim Pross missed the Saturday orientation tour. Councilors Bob Stone, Andy Titus, Tina Gilbert, Leroy Walker, David Young and Burns all participated Saturday.

Councilors began their tour in New Auburn, huddled in the van borrowed from the city’s Recreation Department. Plans call for improvements to the riverside park there, road work and added emphasis to businesses.

“Our downtown area, including New Auburn, has the highest values in the city,” Planning Director Eric Cousens said. “That’s probably going to be our best chance to improve values citywide, if we take a place that already has high values and create a place that is attractive and people want to come to and move to.”

Next, councilors went north to tour the Norway Savings Bank Arena, coming off one of its most successful seasons since it opened in February 2014. So far this season, the arena has reduced its operational deficit from more than $85,000 to $1,500.

“We still have about three good months left in our peak season,” City Manager Howard Kroll said. “We have come a long way. It’s still a work in progress and we are not out of the woods yet, but the trend is going in the right direction.”

Arena General Manager Marc Gosselin said the success has come from getting word of the two-rink ice arena out to the hockey organizations around Maine and looking for alternative uses. The arena can remove the ice from Rink 1 and use it for shows, dances, demonstrations and meetings. The second-floor area that overlooks both rinks can be rented out for parties, receptions and meetings.

“Our main thing is letting people know that we are their facility,” Gosselin said. “We are open for them. If they want to use this facility, just ask.”

Councilors toured the city’s Central Fire Station on Minot Avenue before joining Rick Lanman, director of the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, for a look at runways, taxiways and ramps.

Lanman said he will be asking officials in both Lewiston and Auburn for capital money to replace the ramp asphalt. The asphalt has been maintained but has not been replaced for at least 40 years. Federal Aviation Administration standards suggest that asphalt should have a 10-year life, Lanman said.

“So all of this, virtually, will come to be replaced,” Lanman said. “It is a phased project that will come over time. We are talking about phase one right now.”

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