May 28, 2018
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Public hearings to set referendum dates on arena, dispatch rescheduled to Wednesday

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — City councilors have rescheduled a public hearing from Monday to Wednesday for the purpose of setting the date for a citywide referendum vote on whether Bangor should build a new arena and convention center.

Members of the public will have an opportunity to weigh in at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, but the council has the final say over picking the date. Councilors have been leaning toward a May 4 special election, but June could be a possibility as well since Bangor residents already will be voting on the proposed school budget.

At stake is a proposed $65 million arena and convention center complex that would replace the 55-year-old Bangor Auditorium and the 32-year-old Bangor Civic Center. Earlier this year, city councilors directed architect Don Dethlefs and construction manager Cianbro Corp. to design the 5,800 fixed seat arena (maximum capacity of 8,050) and adjacent convention center. The city has said proceeds from Hollywood Slots and revenue from the downtown tax increment financing district will pay for construction.

A group of residents who were upset over the council’s decisions and concerned about the project’s high cost launched a petition drive to force a citywide vote. The petitioners gathered enough certified signatures to put a question out that will ask voters if they support the construction of an arena complex in Bass Park.

Also on Wednesday, councilors will hold a public hearing and set a date for another referendum that deals with whether Bangor will consolidate its emergency dispatch services with Penobscot County. Petitioner Jim Morrill, a Bangor dispatcher, successfully gathered enough signatures to force a citywide vote that would either affirm the council’s decision or overturn it.

Councilors have said they prefer setting that vote for the November 2011 regular election, but June also is a possibility.

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