BREWER, Maine — Whether residents want to create an advisory committee with Bangor to look for ways the sister cities can save money was not on Tuesday’s City Council agenda, but it was an item that was discussed at length.
A proposal to create an advisory committee, which would identify ways to save $1.5 million annually through mutual cooperation, has been defeated by three of the five councilors several times since Councilor Joseph Ferris first introduced it in April.
To circumvent the disapproving fellow council members, Ferris and Mayor Arthur “Archie” Verow, who has supported the committee’s creation all along, gathered 400 signatures from voters to get a referendum question on the November ballot.
The ballot question came up during discussion on a separate issue.
Residents who signed the petition are really interested in saving money, Ferris said at one point.
“They spoke loud and clear that they do” want to create the advisory committee, he said. “I had 150 [people] sign the petition I was circulating. I only had three say no.”
Councilors Larry Doughty, Gail Kelly and Manley DeBeck, who consistently have voted against the measure, all have said they are not opposed to working with Bangor to save money, but are worried about Brewer city employees keeping their jobs.
“We don’t believe that you’re going to find $1.5 million [in savings] out of the city budgets every year without losing jobs,” Doughty said.
DeBeck said he already is hearing that the police, fire and public works departments in the two cities would be consolidated.
Resident Calvin Bubar, who is a school board member, stood up to say he supports the measure because he’s worried about the massive projected state funding cuts.
He said the school department already is discussing letting five teachers go.
“Monies are being cut left and right,” he said. “I would like to urge the council to consider this committee to work with Bangor. When the committee comes back to the council [with suggested cost savings], that’s the time to address these issues.”
While previous proposals voted on by the council specified that an advisory committee would seek $1.5 million in annual savings, the ballot question does not list any amount.
The November ballot question will ask residents to allow city officials to work with Bangor representatives to create an advisory committee charged with “making recommendations to the respective city councils identifying how both cities can work together to achieve savings and efficiencies in the operation of and services pro-vided by them to their respective communities.”
Bangor’s council voted 7-2 to approve its version of the resolve in April, which does include the $1.5 million in annual savings, 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.
A public meeting will be held in October to inform the public about the ballot question, DeBeck said, adding, “There is always two sides to [any] story.”