ROCKPORT, Maine — Select board members are planning a road trip around town next month and early October to hear residents’ concerns about town issues.
Since the town has five distinct village areas, the listening sessions will be held in each of those locations. A special session for business owner also will be held, followed by a wrap-up session for the board.
The idea, said Bill Chapman, chairman of the select board, is to close the gap between t own government and residents.
“We say, ‘We listen to them,’ but we don’t go out and meet with them,” he said Monday. The last time town officials made such an outreach effort was when the comprehensive plan was updated in 2004, Chapman said.
Earlier this year, board members discussed getting more community input, and as Chapman recalled, asked themselves, “Why don’t we, as part of our goal setting, go around and talk to people in those villages?”
Residents avail themselves of the public comment time at board meetings, he said, but it is often limited in duration and does not draw many people.
“We wanted a more relaxed atmosphere,” and board members hoped to connect with residents who otherwise wouldn’t go out of their way to speak to town officials.
Rockport, population 3,209, which once was part of Camden, lies along the U.S. Route 1 corridor and abuts the busy service center of Rockland. It also has five distinct areas residents see as separate village centers.
Those are the harbor village area; the Glen Cove area, which is on Route 1 near the Rockland line; Simonton Corner, which is at the junction of Main Street and Park Street; West Rockport, which is centered at the intersection of Route 90 and Route 17; and Rockville, which is in the Porter Street and Rockville Street area on Route 17 west of Route 1.
Some of the topics residents may raise, Chapman said, include how they would like the town to develop in the coming years, how walkability could be improved, how often police patrol their areas, and how town services are delivered.
Recently, two businesses on Route 1 — Fresh Off The Farm and Rockport Steel — approached the board about their need for a municipal sewer. This is the sort of information the board hopes to glean from the listening sessions, he said.
The Clam Cove area in Glen Cove, especially on Warrenton Street where the Samoset Resort and its ancillary condominiums and townhouses are located, faces change with a high-end housing development poised to be completed in the coming years, Chapman said.
The Route 90 strip in West Rockport has different growth challenges, he said.
To break the ice, the board will ask questions such as:
• What makes it special to live in your neighborhood? What suggestions do you have to improve your neighborhood?
• How do you feel about development?
• How would you like to see the site of the former Rockport Elementary School, which the town now owns and will demolish in the spring, used? Should Rockport Library expand to the site?
• What town facilities do you use?
All listening tour sessions will start at 7 p.m. and will be held on the following dates, at the following locations: Wednesday, Sept. 12, at the Rockville Community Chapel; Tuesday, Sept. 18, in Glen Cove at the Riley School auditorium; Wednesday, Sept. 19, in Simonton Corner at the Rockport Masonic Center; Tuesday, Sept. 25, at the West Rockport Baptist Church; and Thursday, Oct. 11, in Rockport Village at the Rockport town office.
Business owners are invited to a 7 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at the Rockport Opera House meeting room.
Light refreshments will be served at all the meetings.
A wrap-up session for the board to discuss the meetings is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15, at the Rockport Opera House meeting room.