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Bangor tags Cross Center as new voting venue; unsure of band’s stage request

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Hundreds of music lovers with their lawn chairs showed up for the Bangor Band's final performance at the Bass Park gazebo Tuesday, July 5, 2011. The site where the band played for many years was part of the footprint of the Cross Insurance Center.
By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The city’s Government Operations Committee on Monday night backed the Cross Insurance Center as the future polling location for Bangor voters.

Lisa Goodwin, the city clerk, said during the meeting that current city ordinances require that the city designate one polling place. With the Bangor Auditorium and Civic Center slated to be torn down in May, prior to the June election, the city needs to find a new place.

Bangor’s contract with Global Spectrum, operator of the new arena, contains a clause stipulating that space must be available for election purposes at no cost to the city, according to Goodwin.

The requirement that Bangor have one polling place took effect in 2009, when the council reduced the number from four, according to Goodwin. Prior to 2005, there were eight polling places in the city.

Fewer polling places haven’t affected voter turnout, according to Goodwin, but the consolidated polling has saved money and headaches for the city.

Absentee voting also has played a significant role, with nearly half of Bangor voters casting absentee ballots in the November 2012 election.

Goodwin said the city likely would mail out postcards notifying the city’s registered voters of the changed voting venue. She also said she would advertise the change and record a notice on the local public access channel.

The city’s first election in its new location is tentatively scheduled for June 11, and will feature a school system budget referendum.

Committee members were less agreeable on where the future performance site for the Bangor Band should be located. The former gazebo in what used to be Paul Bunyan Park was razed in 2011 to make way for the future Cross Insurance Center.

Tracy Willette, director of Parks and Recreation, told the committee that Bangor Band, after spending a year trying out different venues, such as the Bangor Waterfront and Peirce Park near the library, favored Pickering Square as the future site for a bandstand.

The committee was divided.

Council Chairman Nelson Durgin said he was “very strongly in support” of the location because it would bring crowds into Bangor’s downtown to eat and shop before and after Bangor Band shows.

Councilors Ben Sprague and Patricia Blanchette said they were surprised by the sudden suggestion of development in Pickering Square, which the council has been discussing the future of since at least the summer of 2012.

The city has been considering a number of options for improvements to the site, and there are several unknowns. For example, a six-month study regarding the best location for the Community Connector bus hub is slated to begin in May, which could mean changes to how the square is used and designed.

“We’ve got to make sure this is in line with some of the other planning we’ve got going on,” Sprague said.

Blanchette expressed strong opposition to the suggested site, saying it would be an “absolute nightmare waiting to happen.”

The band has said it would raise the funds for the construction of a structure in which the band could play. Blanchette argued that structure would be riddled with graffiti and transient problems.

She said the square doesn’t have the “family-friendly atmosphere” that the Bangor Waterfront has, and suggested that would be a better spot for the band. Other councilors and members of the public recommended Peirce Park.

The committee asked that Willette go back to the Bangor Band with councilors’ comments and concerns and further discuss what venue it might want to pursue.

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