May 26, 2018
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Bangor-Brewer panel issues its final report

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The citizen advisory committee that was tasked with finding ways the sister cities of Bangor and Brewer can save money by working together has issued its final report, which does not identify any specific ways of saving taxpayers money.

The report does say that both communities should consider regionalizing some services — maybe even looking for partners beyond city boundaries — and continue to seek public input on ways to save.

“Basically the report says the cities are working fairly well together in areas that they can,” said John Simpson, Bangor’s co-chairman of the committee. “The general consensus is the cities are well managed on both sides of the river and that there is not a lot of fat.”

The joint committee spent six months reviewing the financial books of each community and talking with department heads and even an outside consultant but found no obvious savings, said Lester Young, Brewer’s co-chairwoman of the committee.

“One of the conclusions we made was you can’t save a lot of money without making major changes, like consolidating of departments,” he said.

Purchasing items such as salt or sand together or conducting joint billing does save money but it “doesn’t add up to a lot of money,” said Young, former business manager for the Brewer School Department. “They’re doing now about everything they can to save money cooperatively.”

The 14-member committee, which first met last February, included the city managers and finance directors of both cities and five residents of each community.

To save big bucks, “major policy changes and major departmental structure changes would be needed, and that is something the city councils need to talk about to see if that is something they want to do,” Young said.

Both Brewer City Manager Steve Bost and Interim Bangor City Manager Bob Farrar have said the cities work well together.

The joint committee’s final report recommended that:

ä Newly appointed Bangor City Manager Catherine Conlow, who will begin her job Nov. 29, be allowed time to acclimate herself to her new working environment.

ä The two City Councils “develop a clear sense of direction with respect to their specific goals.”

ä The councils consider regionalization of some services beyond the two cities.

ä The councils “continue the public discussion with the taxpayers of both cities.”

“We are living in an environment which begs the question of ‘How much government can we afford?’ and the taxpayers are really the ones who will drive the economic bus,” the report states.

“We really didn’t come up with cost savings … [and] I think some people will be disappointed that we didn’t have stronger recommendations,” Young said.

Since both Bangor and Brewer have new City Council members and new council leaders, and Bangor has a new manager, “it is really going to be up to the new governments getting together again” for future savings, Simpson said.

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