As past chairs of the Bangor City Council, each of us faced difficult choices during our time as the city’s top elected official.
We were charged with balancing the needs of the city’s residents for services and infrastructure with our responsibility to the taxpayers. We could neither ignore what needed to be done to assure progress nor spend freely on whatever might seem useful. It was not an easy job. It took great consideration and attention to current needs and desires as well as an eye to the future.
We are pleased that the current City Council has been equally thoughtful with respect to the proposed event and convention center, and Bangor voters should endorse their good work by voting “yes” on Wednesday, May 4, in favor of a new arena.
No doubt, it is an important project, and not something that the city should do without careful planning and thought. The discussions — which have been taking place in one form or another for more than a decade — have been thorough and positive.
The result is a smart, $65 million plan that will create 400 permanent jobs, pump $26 million a year into our local economy and, most significantly, is fully funded through the taxes and fees paid by the Hollywood Slots racino.
Still, as good a plan as this may be, some are questioning why Bangor needs to undertake this now. To that we would say: Bangor should do this because it is Bangor. It is the community that leads this region as its commercial and cultural hub. It is the city that draws employers, shoppers, visitors and residents from throughout eastern and northern Maine and beyond.
In fact, investment in infrastructure that supports our place as the region’s hub has been a responsibility assigned to each of us as a leader of this city. In recent years, Bangor has invested millions to secure and maintain its service-center role — that role supports Bangor’s ability to continue to grow, thrive and help our residents prosper.
In the past decade alone, our city has invested more than $67 million in capital improvements to make our community better. Recent expenditures include: waterfront improvements; school building improvements; wastewater treatment infrastructure; airport building and infrastructure improvements; our new police station built in 2008; a new fire station in 2009; and a new parking deck on Columbia Street in 2009.
Beyond these projects, the city has spent more than $11 million in energy-efficiency projects in recent years, and the arrival of Hollywood Slots brought an investment of more than $4 million into the Bass Park complex.
Not all these investments were funded fully by city property taxpayers. In some cases, like the waterfront, significant state and federal contributions were made. In others, like the airport and wastewater improvements, the city had a dedicated revenue stream to help with the funding.
And that’s important to remember with regard to an investment in the arena. The city has a dedicated revenue stream from Hollywood Slots that will pay for this project. It’s a smart, fiscally sound approach that we all support.
As former leaders of the city, we know the vital role that Bangor plays in our region. We recognize this city’s responsibility to lead.
We also all understand the tremendous value of this project. The current auditorium is well beyond repair, and Bangor needs a quality venue if it is to be the kind of place we all want it to be — a place where our families will continue to live, work and play.
Couple this need with a smart plan for financing that protects local property taxpayers and this is an investment worthy of our support and yours, as well, on May 4. Please join us in supporting this worthy project with your “yes” vote.
Michael Aube and Dan Tremble are former chairmen of the Bangor City Council. This commentary was also written by fellow former council chairs Norm Minsky, Tom Sawyer, Richard Stone, Bill Cohen, John Bragg, Tim Woodcock, Joe Baldacci, John Rohman, Mike Crowley, Nichi Farnham, Frank Farrington and John Cashwell.