BANGOR, Maine — Wednesday night’s spaghetti supper fundraiser to save the Community Connector’s Odlin Road bus route brought in more than $4,700, more than double what organizer and City Councilor Joe Baldacci had hoped.
That brings the total funds raised to keep the route to just over $10,000, Baldacci said Thursday. It costs Community Connector $20,000 per year to run the service, which was cut this summer.
Community Connector targeted the Odlin Road route for elimination after the city asked it to cut $20,000 from its budget as part of a difficult series of cuts across multiple city departments. During spring budget talks, the city faced a significant loss of state funding and increasing state and federal mandates. The Council told the city to issue across-the-board cuts to departments, eliminate jobs, and it still had to increase taxes.
As the shutdown date approached, community members and several councilors led an effort to restore the route.
Baldacci volunteered his annual council salary of $2,000, which matched a $2,000 donation from Discovery House, an outpatient center for people recovering from addiction that is located along the route. Brent Miller, director of the center, has said that the bus is the only way many of his clients can make it to Odlin Road to receive their daily treatment. The route also is used by employees of hotels and restaurants in the area.
Other donations have come in since.
Baldacci organized a spaghetti feed in hopes of bringing in more funding to keep the route going. The line for dinner snaked out the front doors of Spectacular Events Center, according to Baldacci. By the end of the night, more than 350 plates were served. Some people had to be turned away because there wasn’t enough space in the venue, Baldacci said.
He said Friday that he hopes the City Council will be willing to match the $10,000 raised so far to fund the route through the fiscal year.
However, it’s likely federal and state funding sources will be reduced more next year, meaning the council would have to find creative ways to keep city services going in the face of cuts.
Community Connector serves about 1,500-2,000 riders per day, according to Baldacci, who called the service a “vital part of the community.”
The Odlin Road route, the least traveled in the bus system, is also the newest. The route made its debut in April 2012 after a push by community members, business owners and councilors who wanted service in the area. The route passes by several industrial parks, hotels and restaurants, making seven trips per day, while most others run double that. City Councilors and interim bus superintendent, Laurie Linscott, have said the route was gaining momentum and drawing more ridership, but it didn’t have long enough to prove itself.
“I think the message last night was that there’s overwhelming support for affordable public transportation,” Baldacci said.