May 20, 2018
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Bangor-Brewer cost-savings committee to disband

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The citizen advisory committee, whose task has been to find ways the sister cities of Bangor and Brewer can save money by working together, has decided to call it quits.

The committee spent six months reviewing the financial books of each community and talking with department heads and even an outside consultant but found there are no obvious savings, said John Simpson, Bangor co-chairwoman of the committee.

“One of the conclusions, I think, is both departments are operating on really tight budgets and are really good people,” he said Wednesday.

Earlier in the year, Simpson had hoped to find labor cost savings in fire, police and public works.

An ad hoc committee of the advisory panel will write a final report, which will be presented to the full committee later this year. Once approved, it will be presented to the city councils in Bangor and Brewer, Simpson said.

“It’s our goal to try and wrap up our work by Christmastime,” he said. “It’s been a good experience.”

The 14-member committee, which has been meeting since February, includes the city managers and finance directors of both cities and five committee members from each community.

Brewer’s five members are: Gail Kelly, state director for U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe and a former mayor; Jim Mullen, a retired banker; Lester Young, former business manager for the School Department; Joe Cote, plant manager at Cianbro’s Eastern Manufacturing Facility; and Bev Uhlenhake, a commercial real estate agent and planning board member.

Bangor’s five members are: Bill Lucy, president of Merrill Bank; Thom Johnston, president of the New England School of Communications at Husson University; Evelyn Silver, senior adviser to the president of the University of Maine; the Rev. Bob Carlson of Penobscot Community Health Care; and Simpson, who is a consultant.

Interim Bangor City Manager Bob Farrar said he is interested in seeing what the final report states before making comments. He added that the cities work well together and that committee members learned a lot about how both communities run and now have a deeper understanding of their individual operations.

“When the report gets prepared and gets distributed, at that point people may want to provide opinions,” he said. “That’s not something I’m willing to do at this point.”

Brewer City Manager Steve Bost said the sister cities have worked well together in the past “on a variety of levels and will continue to do so with an emphasis on efficiency and service delivery.”

“A number of differences emerged between Brewer and Bangor, but there were an equal number of things that unite the communities,” he added. “It was a group of uniquely qualified individuals, and I appreciated the time they spent looking at some very complex issues.”

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