BANGOR, Maine — There was little in the way of disagreement at Wednesday night’s Bangor City Council meeting as councilors showed overwhelming support for the final price tag for the Cross Insurance Center, reserve funding for an airport overflow parking lot and a public resolve supporting a November referendum effort.
Councilors voted unanimously, 9-0, to approve the final cost of $65 million — initially projected to be approximately $3.7 million in annual debt service — for the civic arena and events center already named the Cross Insurance Center, which is scheduled to open on Labor Day weekend next year.
Councilor Joe Baldacci publicly commended Bangor Finance Director Debbie Cyr for her “dedicated, tireless” work and foresight while selling $56.5 million in tax-exempt general obligation bonds last July. That move, which eliminated much taxable debt, saved the city about $750,000 off 2010 projections and means total annual debt service will not exceed $2.9 million. Another factor was the $3 million Cross Insurance Agency has agreed to pay the city over 15 years for exclusive naming rights to the arena.
The council also voted overwhelmingly, but not unanimously, to appropriate $240,000 in airport reserve funds to pay for the construction of an overflow parking lot for Bangor International Airport.
The recommended site is located along Maine Avenue between Godfrey Boulevard and Griffin Road. BIA Director Tony Caruso said the offsite lot is needed to handle what he called increased seasonal demand for parking by air passengers, particularly during winter months. There is a lack of sufficient area for expansion at the existing parking area adjacent to BIA’s terminal building.
Councilors voted 8-1 to approve funding for the lot, with Councilor Jamie Gallant the lone dissenting vote. Gallant cited an upcoming comprehensive study of the city’s Community Connector bus transit system hub. The $31,250 study, which was approved unanimously, will be funded by the Maine Department of Transportation and will determine the best plan to modernize and organize the city’s bus system. Gallant said he thought it best to wait until the study is completed before building a parking lot, especially if the best location for a new hub facility was determined to be at or near BIA.
Bangor’s council also passed an ordinance to merge the city’s Community Advisory Group into the Public Health Advisory Board with an 8-1 vote. Councilor Charlie Longo cast the only “no” vote, saying he felt drug-related issues might get lost in the shuffle despite the fact that current CAG members also serve on the PHAB, and those who don’t can join.
The last item on the agenda took up most of the council’s time, despite the fact that it was a resolve and had no practical effect or impact on city governance. Councilors approved a resolve brought up by Baldacci to support an affirmative vote on the November referendum question seeking to allow the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Maine.
Because it was a resolve, no roll call vote was taken as a matter of protocol and established procedure.
The unanimous support of the resolve was preceded by a Bangor native’s emotional speech before the council. Kara Pelletier, who returned to Bangor to live after moving away, told councilors she is a lesbian who is engaged and hopes to be married in December. She wiped away tears while thanking councilors for their expression of support.