HAMPDEN, Maine — After hearing from residents and Bangor Area Homeless Shelter director Dennis Marble about a proposal to eliminate the Community Connector’s Saturday runs to town as a cost-cutting measure, town leaders voted to add $28,000 to the budget to fund the service.
“Everybody keeps saying nobody is taking the bus on Saturday,” said Angela Rankin, who lives on Main Road North and works in Brewer.
She said when she took the bus to work on Saturday, she counted 10 other people who got on the bus heading into downtown Bangor, where she makes her connection to Brewer.
Marble stressed coming up with another solution before eliminating the service entirely.
The Community Connector is holding a public comment period on the proposed change that lasts until July 2, and no local decision can be made until after they have completed their part of the process, Town Manager Sue Lessard said.
Laurie Linscott, interim bus superintendent for the Community Connector, was also at the meeting and said if five people make comments, she’s obligated to hold a public hearing. She said it would be scheduled in the afternoon so bus riders could attend, which was an issue with some Hampden residents, including Rankin and her mother, who had to take a taxi to Monday night‘s meeting.
Those who would like weigh in on the proposal to eliminate Saturday bus service to Hampden can email Linscott at email@example.com or can mail comments to her at 281 Maine Ave., Bangor 04401.
The $28,000 that was added to the municipal budget increased the bottom line, but councilors also decided to eliminate a $50 stipend each receives for home internet access, a savings of $4,200, and to switch to the Bucksport Animal Shelter for stray animals, for a savings of $5,000, which makes the total increase $18,800, Lessard said.
With the increase, the town budget is $3,816,635, the school budget is $6,033,040 and the county tax is $751,929, for a total combined budget of $10,601,604.
“We’re looking at 84 cents” as an increase to the property tax rate, Lessard said.
During the meeting, a resident also scolded the three councilors who boycotted the June 2 meeting. Councilors Thomas Brann, Jean Lawlis and William Shakespeare apparently decided not to attend the council meeting largely in protest over a 4-3 vote to forward to the council for public hearing Councilor Greg Sirois’ proposal to reduce the stipends that councilors receive for meeting attendance from the current $35 per meeting for the mayor and $30 per meeting for councilors to $1.
Councilors recently have squabbled over such issues as whether to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of meetings, whether to accept and display an antique map donated by one of their own, and more recently whether to give up their pay as a way of sharing the town’s budget pain.
BDN writer Dawn Gagnon contributed to this report.