Here’s our first look at the direction Bangor is taking with their ARPA funding:
Bangor City Council is taking the approach that I feared they would. Rather than collect all the necessary data of needs by those most impacted by COVID-19 and prioritize, they’re slapping arbitrary amounts down on categories and will shoehorn as many projects as they can fit in each box.
This is illustrated by the fact that “other” is the largest slice of the pie. They’re assigning the most funding for a miscellaneous category. They’ve identified four items for that category thus far: electric vehicle chargers, Efficiency Maine projects, public restrooms, and community investments. Of that list, the only two that deserves a penny of this ARPA funding: public restrooms and community investments. Public restrooms have been a need for years as those that are without shelter have nowhere to go and so many times fecal matter and urine end up on the sidewalks downtown. Community investments will depend on what exactly the City Council has in mind.
$5 million for housing. It may seem like a lot, but when you consider that there will be a $5.2 million investment shortfall this year alone, it’s not even the bare minimum. To add insult to injury, this shortfall revelation was included in the very same document that suggests $5 million is enough money to allocate.
If Bangor City Council had actually taken the 2019 Housing Workgroup Report seriously and worked to implement it as prescribed, this chart would look a lot better and be based on real-time data of needs. The fact that they included the entirety of the Penobscot Housing Fund Feasibility Study into today’s ARPA Workshop packet without commentary tells me they don’t have reliable data of their own.
Then there’s the issue of Bangor City Council wanting to charge ahead on Broadband spending of ARPA money without waiting to see what the state of Maine will be doing with the windfall of additional Broadband funding coming from the federal government. I make note of this because when it came to the real life-or-death issue of sheltering human beings, the Council sat on its hands for nearly two years and took the approach of wait-and-see what Penobscot County does first.
I hope tonight’s ARPA Workshop will be illuminating.