BREWER, Maine — A city councilor said there was no way he would ever support a resolve to create an advisory committee with Bangor that would identify ways to save $1.5 million annually through mutual cooperation.
“Hell will freeze over before I vote for it,” City Councilor Manley DeBeck said during Tuesday’s council meeting. “The first thing I saw [after reading the proposed resolve] was Brewer becoming Bangor east.”
The first hour of the meeting was spent discussing, sometimes heatedly, the proposed resolve, which was approved by Bangor City Council on April 27 and brought before the Brewer panel last month and again this month by City Councilor Joseph Ferris.
Ferris said the goal of the resolve was to “look behind the door” to see if there are ways the sister cities could possibly save money through partnerships.
“There are enough good reasons why we should explore it,” he said.
Councilor Gail Kelly said she is all for saving money, but said she was concerned with how the Brewer resolve was amended to eliminate the paragraph requiring the $1.5 million in annual savings, while Bangor’s version wasn’t, and then brought forward again by Ferris without a second review.
Councilor Larry Doughty said even though the resolve before Brewer didn’t list the $1.5 million, he was concerned about how that amount of money could be cut.
“You ain’t going to save a million or a million and a half dollars without cutting positions,” he said. “I, for one, don’t want to see Brewer’s Police Department combined with Bangor’s.”
Bangor City Councilor Richard Stone, who sponsored the Bangor version, and a couple of former Brewer council members, a local business owner and residents were at the meeting to voice support for the measure.
“I put a dollar amount in there … because I wanted people to understand it’s a serious undertaking,” Stone said. “We want to form a committee to make significant savings.”
He added that, “I didn’t want people to think we were coming in with a shotgun” and that “this is not a sneaky way to lay people off.”
However, later in the meeting he said it would take a reduction of 30 employees, who made $50,000 annually, to equal the $1.5 million in savings.
Kelly said she and her fellow councilors work hard to keep expenses low and that “Bangor has never wanted to play ball with us.”
She listed the proposed regional fire district of a few years ago and the Penobscot River Winterfest, which is put on by Brewer alone, as two recent examples of failed proposed partnerships.
The communities have partnered to buy salt for winter roads and fuel oil for the two public works departments, and jointly own the Bon Ton II, a hovercraft shared by the two cities.
Kelly suggested that the advisory committee be scrapped and city managers of each community be directed to work together to find additional efficiencies.
Bangor’s council voted 7-2 to approve its resolve in April, with Councilors Pat Blanchette and Susan Hawes voting against it.
Brewer defeated the measure 3-2, with DeBeck, Doughty and Kelly voting in opposition, and Ferris and Mayor Archie Verow voting in favor of the measure.