On Jan 2, Camden Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell said an important priority for 2018 is improving communication, both internal and external.

Caler-Bell said internal communications involves how the town gets information out to residents and businesses. Caler-Bell has been issuing a manager's report, usually twice per month. She calls this a small step towards getting information out to everyone, though she understands that only a small number of people may be viewing these reports. "We also want to to a better job of communicating with people who may not be as engaged in local government," she said. She is looking into a few different ways to do this, such as an electronic newsletter with a larger distribution list. Links to the town manager reports are located in a column on the right side of the town of Camden website's home page, at www.camdenmaine.gov.

External communication involves how Camden presents itself to the people of the outside world, according to Caler-Bell. "That story about who we are and what we are doing, and where we are going is an important priority as well," she said. "This is going to be a big, ongoing conversation, because we have a lot of groups in Camden that all want to be involved in talking about Camden, and what our brand is." She said this is "the very early days of trying to figure out an inclusive way to do that, so that people feel they can contribute to that in a meaningful way." The discussion "is a first step before we get into any specific strategies," she said.

Another priority is to establish an ordinance review committee in 2018. Caler-Bell said this is something the select board and planning board have expressed an interest in. The committee would assist with proposals for changes to town ordinances. The planning board has taken on this responsibility, which means it has had to put aside its main responsibility of reviewing development applications, Caler-Bell explained. While the planning board "does a great job of working on ordinance changes," an ordinance review committee would provide a clear time frame and process for moving forward zoning changes, and alleviate interruptions in the planning board's review process.

Hiring a new planning and development director is another priority for 2018. The application period for the position closes Jan. 12 and Caler-Bell expects the new director to be announced by the end of the month. The town has received about eight applications to date, she said.

Long-term capital planning is another important priority. Currently, Camden has immediate plans for a wastewater plant upgrade and work on dams, which Caler-Bell calls "large, expensive projects we can't ignore."

"We need to address these needs in a way that is sensitive to taxpayers, and what they are able to carry," she said. "Then there are other projects that are less expensive, but critical as well. And other projects that might not be vitally important, but are something people want to see happen." She said long-term capital planning is a way to balance needs with wants, and figure out what's going to be acceptable for the town, and for planning how it moves forward with that. Caler-Bell is currently putting together a list of needs and proposals that have been discussed. The next step is prioritizing and planning the projects over the next five years, she said.

An administrative priority for 2018 involves restructuring the town's financial software to improve reporting. She calls this an important project. While only town staff will interact with this software, it is important for tracking the big capital projects, she said. It will increase efficiency and transparency in the town's management of financial projects. The financial software will also allow Caler-Bell to produce easy-to-understand reports that will answer questions regarding town expenditures from members of the public, business owners and town officials.