February 23, 2018
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Bangor voters, not just nine councilors, get say on new arena

By Bob Cimbollek, Special to the BDN

On Wednesday, May 4, Bangor registered voters decide whether Bangor will  build a new arena as the result of a grass-roots effort by more than the required 2,236 registered voters needed to cause a referendum.

Without this effort, ground probably would have already been broken for the proposed new arena at Bass Park.

The nine Bangor city councilors were ready to vote 9-0 to build a new arena. Even after we secured the 10 signatures that were needed to start the petition, the council still did not want to put the question out to referendum. This would have sped up the process and eliminated our need to get 2,236 signatures.  Also, the council continues to pour taxpayers’ dollars into the project without knowing the outcome of the vote.

Why did the council not put the question out to referendum before they spent nearly $3 million already?

Why didn’t the council put the question out to referendum after they knew that the petitioners were getting signatures in December?

Was it because they didn’t want to know what the Bangor voters would say?

Was it because they didn’t think the required 2,236 signatures could be gotten?

Whatever the  reasons, the voters in Bangor deserve to have their say and that is why we wanted to get this question to the voters. It is the democratic way to have the people, not just nine councilors decide.

The opponents are not against a new arena. In fact, they would like to see one, but not one paid for by taxpayers dollars, but by private dollars.

Originally, Hollywood Slots was supposed to pay for the construction and maintenance of the project. Then the council added TIF money. Also, their original information group, ERA/AECOM, stated: “The baseline scenario is not feasible, assuming a 20-year bonding period, as gaming revenues are insufficient to finance construction costs.”

By law, only 20-year bonds are available and the council wants a 30-year bond. The taxation committee has tabled the request until after the May 4 vote.

Why wasn’t this request made earlier before the council spent millions?

Now the City Council wants the Bangor taxpayers to co-sign another loan for 20 to 30  years. With the economy down, slots revenues down, the building of other casinos in Oxford Hills and  possibly in Biddeford and Down East, if the Slots revenues are not sufficient to cover the yearly mortgage, the payments will fall onto Bangor taxpayers.

The Friends of the Maine Center have stated that they expect $26 million per year in revenues in Greater Bangor. That is an average of $500,000 per week for 52 weeks. If it is going to be that productive, then why hasn’t the private sector come forward? Because they know that the project predicts an annual $500,000 operations deficit, as the old auditorium-civic center lost over $400,000 yearly.

With the country and state in financial crisis, this is no time for local government to put an additional burden on the backs of Bangor taxpayers.

The question is, can you believe the figures that most politicians tell you today, be it at the national, state or local level?

I would like to thank the people who signed the petition to get it to the May 4 vote. Bangor taxpayers, you are in control of this referendum, not nine councilors who wanted to be. You decide if you want to co-sign this high-cost loan.

Bob Cimbollek, a  Bangor resident, is a retired basketball coach and official.

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