BANGOR, Maine — Their responsibilities to the people they serve often compliment and overlap each other, but that doesn’t mean Bangor City councilors and Penobscot County commissioners are always on the same page.
Hoping to establish a forum for collaboration as economic pressure further tightens their finances, the two groups held a meeting Thursday to discuss potential areas for mutual benefit and concern.
The topics ranged from Bangor joining Penobscot County for police and fire dispatch services — an idea that was discussed at length among city councilors on Wednesday — to plans for a new Bangor auditorium.
Amid good-natured ribbing about which side should pay for what and how much, councilors and commissioners seemed to find some common ground.
Commissioner Peter Baldacci, addressing the pending auditorium plans, said the project will be most successful if it’s marketed as a regional effort, and he hoped the entire county would understand the potential impact.
Bangor City Manager Edward Barrett agreed and said a regional project would be much more likely to generate federal funding than simply a city project.
The issue of combining dispatch services didn’t lead to any potential changes, but the discussion was cordial.
As was talked about among city staff and councilors the night before, Bangor leaders doubted that a collaboration would save much, if any, money. Additionally, Bangor representatives feel that their dispatchers take on responsibilities and duties that Penobscot County dispatchers do not.
County representatives like Jim Ryan, director of the regional communications center, said the county has a standing offer for Bangor to join but respects the city’s decision to keep its own dispatch.
An alternative option was discussed briefly in which Bangor would turn over to the county its 911 call service, a function known as Public Safety Answering Point or PSAP, but keep dispatch services. Again, no decision was made, but there was some interest in that option.
Other areas of discussion included future plans for the old Bangor police station, which abuts a lot that the county uses for parking, and the impact of the pending move into a new Penobscot County Courthouse later this year.
Bangor City Council Chair Gerry Palmer, who coordinated the joint meeting, joked about not remembering the last time the two sides met.
Baldacci quipped that it was probably “before Prohibition.”
Kidding aside, Palmer said he hoped Thursday’s meeting might lead to more and, perhaps, a renewed commitment to working together.