Brewer councilors oppose working with Bangor

Posted Aug. 16, 2009, at 9 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — Three city councilors out of five are opposed to creating an advisory committee with Bangor that would identify ways to save $1.5 million annually through mutual cooperation, and their votes have been enough to defeat the measure.

The group in opposition to the measure — Larry Doughty, Gail Kelly and Manley DeBeck — voted on Tuesday to throw out an order that would put the decision in the hands of residents.

“We don’t need this,” Kelly said Saturday. “How do you take a city of 35,000 — that’s an entitlement city — and a little city of 8,900 and come up with those savings?”

Councilors Joseph Ferris, who first proposed the measure in April, and Mayor Arthur “Archie” Verow, who has supported it, have decided to circumvent the council. The two have started a citizens’ petition that would override the council’s recent decision and put the item on the Nov. 3 ballot, Ferris said.

“This is something worth looking into,” he said Saturday.

A total of 400 registered voters need to sign the petition by mid-September to get the question on the ballot this fall.

The ballot question would ask residents to approve creating wording for an advisory committee, which both city councils would have to approve, “to make recommendation to the city councils of Bangor and Brewer identifying how both cities can work together to achieve savings and efficiencies in the operation of and services provided by them to their respective communities,” Ferris said.

Kelly said she is all for saving money, but is concerned about how the savings would be created, especially since Brewer relies entirely on taxpayers to fund its budget, unlike Bangor, which receives outside funding from Hollywood Slots and other revenue streams.

“It’s like comparing apples to oranges,” she said. “I think we’ve done pretty good saving money and keeping our tax base where it is.”

Kelly suggested again that city managers from the communities be directed to work together to find additional efficiencies.

Cutting employees by consolidating with Bangor is a concern both Doughty and DeBeck have voiced in previous meetings.

“You ain’t going to save a million or a million and a half dollars without cutting positions,” Doughty said at the May council meeting.

Bangor’s council voted 7-2 to approve its version of the resolve in April with Councilors Pat Blanchette and Susan Hawes voting against it. Bangor City Councilor Richard Stone, who is a friend of Ferris’, sponsored the Bangor version.

Ferris has said on numerous occasions that the goal of the resolve is just to look for ways the sister cities can save money through partnerships.

A press conference is planned for Tuesday, Aug. 18, at City Hall to announce the petition drive.

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