BANGOR, Maine — City leaders hope to see the completion of the West Side Village rehabilitation and the continued development of the waterfront over the next 12 months.
The City Council also will tackle the redevelopment of Pickering Square, according to a recent workshop at the police station where City Manager Cathy Conlow and town department managers briefed the council on their plans.
Council Chairman Joe Baldacci said he thinks the council’s biggest priority, however, is maintaining city services against expected $5 million to $7 million annual shortfalls in state education funding and revenue-sharing.
“Every year, that is a challenge because of the policies in Augusta. We will have to work to ensure that we cover the basics. We have to keep everything running,” Baldacci said Wednesday. “We have great schools and [fire and police departments] but the roads could be better.”
The council passed a $95.4 million budget with a 7-1 vote in late June. The budget raises $57.7 million in taxes and increased the tax rate from $21.95 to $22.50, a 2.5 percent increase. The budget includes $50.9 million in city expenditures, as well as the $44.5 million school budget approved by voters at the polls earlier that month.
Councilors said that the tax-rate increase likely will be offset for many homeowners due to an increase in the state’s homestead exemption. The exemption, which provides a reduction in the value of homes owned by owners for more than a year, increased from $10,000 to $15,000. The increase allows homeowners whose residence is valued at $150,000 to pay $35 less than last year.
Underway since 2013, the West Side rehabilitation project should be finished in August 2017, city Community and Economic Development Director Tanya Emery told the council. The neighborhood stretches from Main Street west to Third Street and from Buck Street north to Union Street. The city has purchased and demolished several properties on Garland and Third streets while doing sidewalk and road improvements in the area.
An interdepartmental team has been working on redesigning Pickering Square to “create a better experience for bus and parking garage users” and “a better pedestrian connection from West Market Square through Pickering to the waterfront,” Emery wrote in a memo.
The city also will work on rehabilitating the former Officer’s Club on Cleveland Street, Emery said.
Police Chief Mark Hathaway told councilors during the Nov. 10 meeting that keeping his department at full staffing is a chronic problem, as it is with police statewide.
Bangor, Hathaway said, has a good mix of veteran and younger officers, but is short six officers and only could find one qualified candidate to fill five open slots at the municipal police academy in August. The fire department is fully staffed at 88 firefighters, Fire Chief Tom Higgins said.
Another important project, Baldacci said, is the continued redevelopment of the Bangor waterfront. The city is negotiating a new 10-year contract with Waterfront Concerts, the company that manages Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion.The 2016 season, the venue’s seventh, was the largest so far — 21 shows, including two of the best-attended shows in the venue’s history.
City officials hope to replace docks two and three on the waterfront and recreation officials hope to continue to eventually create more mooring and docking spaces in the Penobscot River, Recreation Department Director Tracy Willette said. The waterfront also might be the location of a new Bangor skatepark.
Recreation officials also hope to begin implementing a replacement plan for the city’s 10 play structures in city parks and recreation areas. The plan includes replacing the structure at Little City and then, if all goes well, Fairmount Park over the next two years, Willette said.