The Hampden budget was approved by a slim margin Monday night, which included the necessary funds to keep the bus service running.
Monday’s 4-3 vote to approve the budget and allocate about $106,000 for the Community Connector bus service served as a reflection of the council’s even split on the matter in a preliminary budget hearing in May, where some councilors called for cutting the service entirely and it was recommended the budget not include bus funding.
Those who voted in favor included newest member and likely tiebreaker Shelby Wright, who was elected on June 12. At the Monday meeting, Wright also proposed the town reinstate funds to partially fund bus service on Saturdays, but that was voted down 1-6.
The overall municipal budget called for an estimated $9.6 million spending plan offset by municipal revenues of about $4.4 million, for a total of $5.3 million.
Before Monday’s vote, a half-dozen area residents pleaded with councilors not to defund the bus, which is a regional service paid for by federal funding and its participating communities, including Bangor, Orono, Veazie, Old Town, Hampden and Brewer.
Susan Olson said her sister was a recovering heroin addict who used the bus as her primary mode of transportation last summer. Dick Clark told councilors the only way he gets around is by taking the bus. Catherine Chodkiewicz said she worried that cutting the bus would mean “segregating the poorest of our population.”
Councilors Stephen Wilde, Mark Cormier and Terry McAvoy voted against the budget, and only Wilde explained why.
Before the vote, Wilde described to residents how difficult this year’s budget process has been.
“Some of us, yes, would like to see the bus gone. I’m not one advocating for total elimination of the bus,” but it comes down to numbers, he said.
“We have to talk very tough sometimes,” Wilde said. “I just want the public to understand that everything was on the table for discussion this year.”
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