BANGOR, Maine — The city has decided not to renew its long-term membership with the Maine Municipal Association beginning next year, becoming just the sixth municipality among 492 in Maine to do so.
In an email sent to municipal staff and city councilors, Bangor City Manager Catherine Conlow indicated that there were a number of reasons behind the decision, which was made during the city’s recent budget discussions.
1. Unlike some other communities, the city does not rely on MMA for any insurance.
2. Bangor has full-time staff members devoted to most areas, such as legal services and human resources, where MMA often provides assistance.
3. Some in Bangor have felt that MMA does not represent the interests of a larger community such as Bangor as well as it does smaller communities.
4. Bangor’s annual dues of about $30,000 paid to MMA do not correlate with the level of services. A city like Bangor that does not rely on MMA as much as a smaller community does not get any sort of discount. In fact, Bangor pays more because dues are determined by the size of a community.
With Bangor’s budget operating near the margin, Conlow said any opportunity to save money needed to be considered.
“I am sure that some of you will be disappointed by the decision that Bangor has made and we are hopeful that as the economy improves, we can engage in a constructive dialog with MMA to discuss some of the issues that have been noted above,” the city manager wrote in the email, which also was sent to MMA personnel. “Understand that we are supportive of Maine municipalities and the efforts of MMA to support those municipalities.”
Eric Conrad, a spokesman for MMA, said Bangor is only the sixth municipality among 492 in Maine to not be a paid member and the largest community by far.
“Certainly we’re disappointed, but we respect their decision,” he said. “We hope to meet with them soon to talk more about their concerns and maybe share some more information with them about the services we provide.”
MMA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan voluntary member organization that was founded in 1936. Its mission is to promote local government as the fundamental component of a democratic system of government.
The organization provides a variety of services to cities and towns, but Conrad said the biggest piece is its lobbying presence at the State House. One of MMA’s recent successes, Conrad said, was opposing a referendum in 2009 that sought to reduce automobile excise taxes. Had that change been approved, Bangor would have lost roughly $1.8 million a year in revenue.
Conrad said MMA remains committed to Bangor and even pointed to the fact that the 2011 conference was held in the Queen City. Conlow said the city would continue to have a dialogue with MMA about membership in the future.