BANGOR, Maine — They have tried before with limited success, but city councilors in Bangor and Brewer are exploring ways to cooperate and, perhaps, save some money along the way.
Bangor City Councilor Richard Stone and Brewer Councilor Joseph Ferris have been talking about the idea for weeks and recently drafted resolves for both cities to consider.
Bangor’s council voted 7-2 Monday to approve its resolve, which would take steps to establish a joint committee between Bangor and Brewer to explore and recommend means for savings and efficiencies through mutual cooperation.
“This isn’t going to solve this year’s budget problems or even next year’s,” Stone said. “But it could help down the line. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be working together.”
Brewer city councilors will discuss and vote on their version of the resolve at their regular meeting tonight, but Ferris said there is no guarantee it will pass.
“I don’t see any downside, but others have disagreed,” he said Monday. “Our two communities get along well and the councils get along well. The truth is, we don’t know if there are savings or not, but what’s the harm in looking?”
If Brewer does pass its resolve tonight, Stone said, the cities would formalize an order to create the committee, which would be made up partly of civic leaders in both communities, but also ordinary residents.
Stone has outlined an ambitious goal of finding $1.5 million in annual savings between Bangor and Brewer.
At Monday’s meeting in Bangor, Councilors Pat Blanchette and Susan Hawes expressed their concerns before voting against the resolve.
Hawes said that while she’s normally supportive of citizen committees, she couldn’t see charging a group with a task it might not be able to follow through on, specifically meeting the $1.5 million goal.
Blanchette cautioned against turf battles between the two cities, which could make things worse.
In truth, there has been some minor competition between Bangor and Brewer over the years, whether in economic development or grants or in other areas. Both Stone and Ferris agreed, though, that the current economic troubles have precipitated perhaps a new spirit of collaboration between the cities that are connected by a se-ries of bridges over the Penobscot River.
“It’s like going swimming,” Stone said. “Once you jump in, it’s not as cold as you thought.
“I understand people who think we don’t need another committee, but we can’t do things in a vacuum. We created an arena committee because we want different perspectives and experiences. This is the same idea.”
Councilor David Nealley, before voting in favor of Monday’s resolve, said he thinks the Bangor-Brewer partnership model is great in helping to erase what he called archaic boundaries.
“I hope it goes further,” he said.