Kennebunkport Town Manager Laurie Smith begins a meeting with introductions before representatives from Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel break out into groups on Wednesday evening.

Kennebunkport Town Manager Laurie Smith begins a meeting with introductions before representatives from Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel break out into groups on Wednesday evening.

KENNEBUNK — In one of the first summits of its kind, the boards of selectmen of Arundel, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, as well as the town managers, representatives from the Regional School Unit 21 School Board, and the superintendent came together Wednesday night at Kennebunk Elementary School to discuss the issues facing the three towns, and evaluate their collaboration potential – touching on what they are doing well and what they could be doing better. And if the number of calls to meet again soon are any indication, it was a productive exercise between the three towns.

Superintendent of Schools Katie Hawes said in an interview in July that she saw meeting with the boards of selectmen as a priority to foster cooperation, and she plans on meeting quarterly with all of the town manag- ers to continue to discuss issues.

It was a bit like the first day of school, with the selectmen introducing themselves to each other over a meal in the Kennebunk Elementary School cafeteria. However, the representatives quickly got to work, breaking into groups of five or six, with a mix of representatives of all three towns, to discuss the positive collaborations between the organizations and what they felt were important opportunities to improve.

A diverse range of options were discussed – some of them bolder than others – from consolidation of the public safety services of the three towns to buying paper products in bulk as one organization to save money. Arundel Town Manager Keith Trefethen said it was important for his group that they “go big or go home” in their discussion, which centered around consolidating public safety services.

Kennebunk Town Manager Barry Tibbetts’ group came up with a number of efficiency saving moves, such as looking at ways to expand the broadband capabilities through the three towns, potentially saving money and attracting business, as well as standardizing the chart of accounts across the towns.

“They are standardized at the state but not at the individual towns,” Tibbetts said of the chart of accounts. “We can compare financial data better and coming up with some possibilities for some savings.”

During the breakout groups, members of the School Board noted how useful it was to meet with mixed members from each of the communities.

“We have a good range of experience here: bankers, store owners, lawyers,”

School Board Chair Maureen King said.

“It is important to try and break down as many walls as possible so we can be one community,” RSU 21 School Board member Mary-Beth Luce said.

After each group brainstormed their suggestions, they were posted in the front of the room and presented to the assembly by each group facilitator.

Each participant was given a sticker they could place on the issue that mattered most to them creating a sort of informal poll that Hawes summarized.

“It looks like some of the common things you would like us to look into,” she said, “are consideration of combining some public works, looking at joint purchasing of supplies and fuels, kids going to the closest school – that’s a surprise to me – sharing public safety services … continued communication, and along that same line getting together like this more frequently … that’s great feedback for us because it means you’re happy to be here and it’s been a productive meeting.”

“I just wanted people to come together to begin to build bridges … the outcome was forward thinking, professional and respectful,” Hawes said, adding she would be considering the suggestions and continue discussion at her next meeting with the town managers.

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