One must be careful when launching into conversation with Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci about his latest cause.
I did so one recent evening and now I’m set to be serving up spaghetti next week.
Looking beyond government coffers to keep things afloat is not new to Baldacci.
He did it back in 2005 when the city was considering closing down Dakin Pool on the east side of the city.
He spearheaded the effort to form The Friends of Dakin Pool which established business and citizen partnerships to help make improvements at the facility and keep it open.
Now he is looking to save the Odlin Road route of the city’s Community Connector bus service.
Bangor residents living and working in and around Odlin Road and Outer Hammond Street spent five years on a petition campaign to get the bus to service the route. It finally started up just 17 months ago.
Last spring as councilors were grappling with severe state cutbacks and increasing state and federal mandates councilors asked the bus service to trim $20,000 from its annual budget.
The cost of the Odlin Road route?
You got it — $20,000.
Hence the Odlin Road route is on the chopping block.
The greater Bangor bus service serves 1,500-2,000 people per day throughout Bangor, Orono, Old Town, Veazie, Hampden and the University of Maine, according to Baldacci who noted that last year it logged over a million rides, twice as many as a decade ago.
Its budgeted expenses this year run around $1.7 million dollars, while its revenues are expected at about $1.3 million. The city of Bangor picks up the remainder.
The Odlin Road route services an area of the city home to a couple of industrial parks, many hotels and restaurants and a methadone clinic.
It has the lowest ridership of any of the other bus routes, but is crucial to many lower-income Bangor residents who have no other way to get to work, Baldacci said recently.
Some may argue they aren’t concerned about the ability of methadone patients to make it out to their daily treatments, but considering the taxpayer is picking up the transportation costs for many if not most of methadone clients, including gas mileage if they have their own cars or cab fare if they don’t, the bus seems like a frugal alternative.
In 2010 the state paid $7 million to transport methadone clients to and from treatment facilities according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The route was slated to stop last August but got a short-term reprieve when Baldacci gave up the approximate $2,000-a-year salary he earns as a councilor and donated it to a fund established to save it. Another private donor contributed another $2,000.
Now Baldacci is hoping that businesses and residents will pitch in the remaining $16,000 needed to officially save the route for the year.
And he is calling on his own family to do what they do best — make spaghetti — to be served at a fundraiser from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, at the Spectacular Events Center on Griffin Road.
There will also be a silent auction.
“Spectacular Events is donating so much to this event as well as so many other restaurants, businesses and individuals. It really shows how generous our community is and how many people are willing to work and give to get something accomplished. It’s neighbors helping neighbors in the most basic way and transportation is a very basic need,” Baldacci said.
I don’t doubt the number of those donating to or participating in the cause. Joe is sort of hard to say no to. Hence on Wednesday that will be me wearing the apron and asking if you’d like a roll with your spaghetti.
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