BANGOR, Maine — Bangor Councilor Pat Blanchette has long been frustrated by Bangor’s downtown signs, so much so that she has a stock answer when asked directions.
“I see people driving around town asking, ‘How the hell do you get there?’ I just look at them and say, ‘You can’t get there from here,’” Blanchette said after Wednesday afternoon’s meeting of the council’s business and economic development committee. “Downtown Bangor is a signage nightmare. It really is.”
Blanchette, who referred to signs directing motorists and pedestrians to Bangor’s popular downtown and waterfront destinations, is hoping this is the year Bangor finally does something to address the issue.
“I’m not comfortable putting this off another year,” she said. “Hell’s going to freeze over before we ever get this mess down here straightened out.”
Some of Blanchette’s fellow councilors have concerns about sign costs.
“My only concern is I don’t want to pay $25,000 and not have any signage,” said Councilor Cary Weston, who also serves as mayor. “We don’t need to pay someone $25,000 to come in and tell us we need signs. We already know that. We can put signs up without spending that $25,000.”
Weston referred to a committee’s unanimous decision to put out requests for proposals in December 2010 for a comprehensive system of signs downtown. Ten bids were received and one finalist was chosen, but the committee declined to award a contract because it became apparent that another $50,000 to $60,000 would be needed for the actual fabrication and installation of signs.
“We’re taking bids to manage the project, but taking bids doesn’t mean any money is actually allocated,” said Councilor Ben Sprague, who led Wednesday’s meeting.
A staff recommendation to put out requests for proposals for sign plans was approved 3-1, with the stipulations that City Manager Cathy Conlow also check on the viability of having city staff develop and install signs and that the proposals would include a total figure including installation.
Councilors Blanchette, Sprague and Charlie Longo voted in favor with James Gallant against. Weston was not a voting member.
Business and Economic Development Officer Shirar Patterson pointed out that Bangor has $55,000 specifically allocated for downtown signs. The money is from last year’s community development funds and a $30,000 downtown tax increment financing fund allocation.