BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor City Council unanimously approved construction of a $390,307 paved and illuminated waterfront pathway as well as a five-year Waterfront Pavilion lease for the KahBang Music and Arts Festival.
Construction by Hampden company Maine Earth on the quarter-mile pathway, which will be 10 feet wide and extend from the Hollywood Casino to the intersection of Railroad and Front streets, can begin as early as November.
While the pathway vote was expected, the vote for a lease with KahBang was not, although it has been discussed and debated — and postponed — in council twice in the last two months.
Councilor James Gallant asked to suspend council rules in order to allow for the introduction of a vote on the KahBang lease to use the waterfront. The vote was scheduled to be held in mid-September after councilors voted 8-1 to postpone a vote on Aug. 13.
Gallant’s request was seconded, but before a vote, Councilor Ben Sprague voiced concern about the sudden way in which the vote was brought up and a lack of a heads-up for him to do any research on the matter.
KahBang executive director Tim Lo addressed the council and answered questions about any reservations he had about the contract, since Lo had a few when the deal originally was scheduled for a vote during the council’s July 23 meeting.
“We are comfortable with the agreement, as is,” Lo told the councilors. “Even though this lease vote was suspended last time, we had no doubt we would reach an agreement.”
Sprague, while expressing his support for the annual festival, which just completed its fourth run, cautioned Lo, who he said was a friend, to continue to upgrade the event because of its private, moneymaking enterprise status.
“KahBang basically had to grow up after a really quick start in 2009, when we put it together in six weeks,” said Lo. “And we have grown up a lot in that time.”
The council also approved — this time in an 8-1 vote — including a resident petition-created amendment referendum vote on the Nov. 6 ballot this year.
Councilor Nelson Durgin voiced strong opposition to the amendment, which would require resident approval by a public referendum vote on any noninfrastructure municipal projects costing approximately $1.2 million or more.
Councilor Pat Blanchette agreed with Durgin’s stance on the proposed amendment, but said she would vote to include it on the November ballot because she was not in favor of special elections, which cost the city more money to hold.
After Councilor Charlie Longo suggested putting it on a future council agenda to allow for public comment by councilors, Sprague questioned whether it was the role of councilors to publicly comment on an election item, as well as something that directly affects the council.
Councilor Geoffrey Gratwick said he had his concerns about the amendment proposal but felt councilors should comment and probably should have commented on other matters in the past.
Bangor resident Pauline Civiello told councilors the intent of the petition drive and proposed amendment was not to create special elections, but Blanchette offered a cautionary note at the end of the meeting, saying that special elections are not prohibited in the wording of the petition-spawned amendment proposal and that they could, in fact, be held at off times.
“You could have one in March when it’s cold and icy and no one wants to go out and you’ll be lucky if you have a turnout of 1 or 2 percent,” Blanchette said. “And because of the wording of this amendment, that could happen.”
To view a site plan of the waterfront pathway, click here. The path (seen in gray on this plan) runs from the Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway and eventually splits and arcs off to encircle an elliptical, eye-shaped area before reconnecting and continuing on to the parking lot near the intersection of Railroad and Front streets, and near the Sea Dog Brewing Co. Map courtesy city of Bangor.