BIDDEFORD-SACO — In their inauguration speeches last month, the mayors of Biddeford and Saco both spoke of their desire for the two cities to work more closely together. On Monday, the Biddeford and Saco city councils met jointly to initiate that process.

The meeting was held in the Pepperell Center, less than a tenth of a mile from the river that links the two cities’ downtowns. According to documents provided by Saco City Administrator Kevin Sutherland, councilors were required to identify positives and opportunities in their city as well as their neighboring city and create a list of ongoing and potential collaboration efforts between the two communities.

The councils identified included more than 20 potential collaboration efforts at the meeting, such as establishing a downtown trolley, writing grants for both cities and intregating department leadership.

“It was an opportunity for them to have a conversation with each other and take a look at how to move forward over the next two years in order to do more collaborations and work together,” Biddeford City Manager Jim Bennett said Tuesday.

Both mayors said in emails Tuesday that Monday’s meeting was the furthering of a process that has been underway for a number of years – even if it hasn’t been very evident.

“We are moving towards a greater, more in-depth relationship that will yield additional opportunities to provide city services in a cost-effective and efficient manner,” said Saco Mayor Ron Michaud. “Building on what is already in place enables each new council to enhance the processes already in place and expand areas of cooperation.”

Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant said he foresees more meetings with Michaud, and both mayors have appointed councilors from their respective cities to serve on a subcommittee tasked with researching possible collaborations.

Casavant and Bennett stressed that large-scale collaborations between Biddeford and Saco are still a ways out, as more trust and familiarity needs to be established between the communities first.

“Change does not happen overnight,” said Casavant, “but I think that the foundation for better collaborations has been laid, and it will be up to this council to begin to coordinate positive, systematic accomplishments in this area.”

“You can’t just snap your fingers (and have a closer relationship),” said Bennett. “It’s sort of like having, for lack of a better analogy, a forced marriage… You don’t get married overnight in most cases. You need to take some time.”

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]

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