AUBURN — A yearlong process to develop a strategic plan for the city finally arrived in front of elected officials and the public Monday, and those involved call it a “road map” for the future.

The plan, created with the involvement of three committees and more than 100 people, is meant to guide the work of the City Council and city staff, with specific recommendations to help officials make budget decisions.

The council, while supportive and enthusiastic about the plan, also had concerns over some of its content deemed “political,” including Lake Auburn filtration, which was said could hamper implementation.

Many promised the plan will not end up on a shelf, collecting dust, and will be front and center for staff and elected officials. Someone suggested the recommendations should be displayed in the Council Chamber.

Some, including Councilor Holly Lasagna, who served on one of the planning committees, said the 35-page plan has inspired officials and staff.

“Staff is seeing themselves in this now,” she said.

Cliff Greim, president of Harriman and chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee, said the strategic plan will act as a marketing tool for Auburn. He said investors of any kind “want to know the city has a plan.”

“Depending on who we want to attract, this can be handed to anyone,” he told the council. “They’ll say this community has its act together.”

Greim said the plan is a broad-reaching, “living” document that “represents all aspects of the community.”

The planning committee arrived at 11 final recommendations related to environmental concerns, the downtown, infrastructure, transportation, schools and more.

They include recommendations such as: “Work to protect and fully enjoy Auburn’s natural resources; Protect Lake Auburn and all other bodies of water; Develop a downtown management district focusing on Great Falls Plaza, downtown & the Androscoggin River; Define neighborhoods, support rehabilitation and beautification; and Improve image of schools and increase commitment to and value of education.”

Other sections of the document, Greim said, offer “measurable steps” to accomplish those goals moving forward. In the appendix, each goal is also listed with a corresponding “prioritization” number, with 1-4 going from “top priority” to “low priority.” However, that exercise was done prior to forming the final recommendations.

Officials made sure to stipulate that the strategic plan is not an update of the much-larger Comprehensive Plan, which is done roughly once a decade.

Following the presentation of the plan, Councilor Andy Titus said issues such as Lake Auburn filtration and improving the image of the School Department could be deemed political, and could be sidelined from implementation due to public debate.

The future of the lake has become a political issue over the past year as Mayor Jason Levesque has pushed for a water filtration plant there to replace the district’s treatment methods.

Adam Lee, who served on the Strategic Planning Committee, spoke during a later public comment period Monday to point out that the committee only agreed on the 11 final recommendations and that language on some issues, such as filtration, was “specifically rejected” from being included.

“We were clear that there aren’t specific policy recommendations coming out of committee,” he said. “We’re not creating policy.”

Former Councilor Bob Stone, who chaired the invest subcommittee, said the amount of participation and engagement can be seen in the final plan.

“This is an opportunity for the council, in one document, to see what the citizens are thinking about, what they’d like to see in their Auburn. It’s all right there. It gives the city staff, pending approval, a road map to what the citizens would like to have them working on,” he said.

Dave Gonyea, chairman of the quality subcommittee, told the council the plan “is not going to sit on the shelf, it’s a working document. I think it’s a blueprint of where Auburn can go.”

“I think there’s going to be a lot of people watching the council now to make sure this plan doesn’t go on the shelf,” Stone said.

Greim said the committee is planning a “landing breakfast,” at the Hilton Garden Inn to further present the plan to the public, as well as a “partnership summit” in six months to update the public on its progress.

The strategic plan can be read in its entirety on Monday’s City Council agenda packet, or by clicking here.


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