May 23, 2018
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Bangor council passes budget, delays vote on Hope House expansion

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The City Council overwhelmingly approved its $89,055,686 budget for fiscal year 2013 on Monday night but opted to delay a vote on expanding Hope House operations.

The budget includes a 45 cent — or 2.3 percent — increase in the mill rate, which will go from $19.20 to $19.65 for every $1,000 in valuation.

A $100,000 home therefore would see a $45 increase and a $1,965 property tax bill each year.

The vote was 8-1 to approve the budget with only Councilor James Gallant voting against it.

“There was no desire to raise taxes,” said City Manager Cathy Conlow. “Our goal is to maintain level taxes and the city has, over the last few years, done a good job of that, but we have spent down a lot of our reserves, we’re still seeing revenue cuts from a lot of sources, and our assessments are either flat or going down, so we’re focusing on our core services.”

The budget includes funding to pay for capital improvements on roads and sidewalks through low-interest $2.5 million bonds, a wage increase for nonunion and union city employees pending negotiations with 11 labor unions, and $1.5 million for new equipment including a fire engine, sidewalk plow and other snow removal equipment.

“Ultimately, the goal is to have a flat budget, but when they made decisions to fund capital improvements with a bond issue for capital improvements, they also made a decision to fund money to pay that back,” said Conlow. “That’s smart and responsible. Not easy, but smart and responsible.”

Another agenda item that drew considerable discussion was a proposal to amend city code to allow conditional uses in Bangor’s government and institutional service district including a rooming house, boarding home or congregate housing facility.

This amendment was requested by Penobscot Community Health Care to allow the nonprofit organization to expand its Hope House facility to include a 25,000-square-foot, 50-unit transitional housing facility.

Two residents living on Dunning Boulevard spoke against the proposal, talking about problems they have had with Hope House residents cutting across their property, leaving beer and alcohol containers behind and verbally abusing homeowners.

Alfred Mosca spoke about people camping in nearby woods and leaving messes behind.

“We beg you to give residents a chance to be heard on this,” Mosca said.

Ken Schmidt, Penobscot Community Health Care’s chief executive officer, presented the expansion plan and offered to meet with residents within a week to address concerns.

Councilors voted unanimously not to take action and revisit the proposal in two weeks.

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