June 21, 2024

Bangor ARPA Timeline

May 2021

Bangor is notified they will be receiving $20,478,297 from the U.S. Treasury.
Allocation for Metropolitan Cities (treasury.gov)

April 11, 2022

The City Manager suggests in her Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Proposal to City Council that some ARPA funds should be spent on City Hall renovations ($1,975,000), and the Fire Department ($1,405,000).

April 30, 2022

The City of Bangor failed to submit a certified Project and Expenditure Report for Quarter 1 of 2022 by this deadline as required by Treasury rules

May 2022

Bangor issues a public survey on how money is to be spent. One year after being notified they would be receiving funds, and 11 months after they’ve already received the first half of the money.

June 2022

Bangor holds listening sessions with public on how money is to be spent

July 11, 2022

Bangor City Council holds its first workshop reviewing public input. 

July 31, 2022

The City of Bangor failed to submit a certified Project and Expenditure Report for Quarter 2 of 2022 by this deadline as required by Treasury rules

October 31, 2022

The City of Bangor files Q3 2022 Project and Expenditure Report on time.

November 1, 2022

Bangor City Council holds an ARPA workshop for its members to discuss feedback received by the community. Councilor Gretch Shaefer dismisses the results as “statistically insignificant” and they should not be considered. 

December 7, 2022

Bangor City Council holds a workshop session. Based on emails that I sent to City Councilors, the City Manager admits to them for the first time that they did not comply with Q1 and Q2 2022 filing requirements. City Manager also tells the Council that the city is earning a “fabulous” interest rate on the ARPA funds. Councilor Dan Tremble announces that the Council will be allocating $2 million in ARPA funds for Broadband. City Manager responds by saying he was not supposed to disclose that.

December 14, 2022

ARPA was on the agenda for a workshop but was rushed through and abruptly ended as discussion of the Opioid Settlement dominated the one and a half hour allotted for this meeting.

December 21, 2022

Bangor City Council makes its first ARPA allocations. Fresh Start Sober Living, Maine Discovery Museum, Bangor Public Library, and Penquis. During this meeting Councilor Dan Tremble referred to the decision to collaborate with Penobscot County as the plan all along. This is in direct contradiction with an email exchange I had prior to this meeting with City Council Chairman Rick Fournier. Email thread in two parts:

December 28, 2022

Bangor City Council holds a workshop, reviews ARPA priorities.
Microsoft Word – Priority Summary (bangormaine.gov)

Later, during the City Council regular meeting they officially approve their first 4 allocations from December 21st.

January 4, 2023

Bangor City Council agrees to hire Neal Goldberg as ARPA administrator @ $40/hr. City Manager admits that he was hired without open competition. It was a direct ask of Neal Goldberg through the City Manager’s connection with him. As ARPA funds will be used to pay for this position, this is a violation of Title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 200, Subpart D, which states that “all procurement transactions shall be conducted in a manner providing full and open competition consistent with the standards in this subpart” (2 CFR 200.320).  I wrote the City Council on January 9, 2023 informing them of this and requesting an investigation. I received no response. 

January 9, 2023

Bangor City Council is presented a memo that contains a suggested allocation amount per category for ARPA funds. City Manager advises Council that agreements have not yet been put in place for existing allocations and therefore will not be reporting them to the U.S. Treasury on the Q4 2022 Project and Expenditure Report, due January 31, 2023.  These category amounts are arbitrary. When asked during the meeting how the City Manager came up with $5 million for housing, she said $5 million is 25% of the total ARPA funds, and that just felt right. One would expect these allocations to be based on data and need. Notably absent from these suggested allocations are the proposed amounts from the City Manager’s April 11, 2022 FY23 proposal. (City Hall renovations and Fire Department)

January 30, 2023

Bangor City Council held a workshop. YMCA is on the agenda, and the ask is $2 million. Council Chairman Rick Fournier states he believes he has a conflict due to his position in the Capital Campaign for the YMCA. Council motions that he does and seconds it.  The Chairman then states that he may have an ethical issue. While he was on the Capital Campaign he facilitated meetings between Council Members, 3 councilors specifically, that he asked them to contact YMCA after the YMCA director stated they could not reach them, and asked the Chairman to help get “movement of those 3.”  The Chairman did not disclose the names of the 3 councilors at this time. Council says they wished he had disclosed his conflict sooner, and according to Councilor Davitt this “feels icky.” But the Council does not vote that this is an ethical issue.

January 31, 2023

City of Bangor files Q4 2022 Project and Expense Report as required for ARPA. Reported 0 projects.

February 14, 2023

Bangor City Council discussed an application process for ARPA funds. Housing is on the agenda, but the discussion is not about the creation of new units the city desperately needs. The memo for this agenda now factors in $2 million dollars towards the YMCA as “Supported – Not Yet Finalized”

March 13, 2023

Bangor City Council held a workshop. The first draft of the new ARPA application is included in the meeting’s agenda packet. At this meeting the Councilors suggested using ARPA funds to pay for a “wish list” of renovations beyond what was included in the city’s $6,000,000 bond that was approved by voters in 2019. Councilor Leonard pushed back on this suggestion, as he believes that the city is facing more important issues that should be addressed by ARPA funds.

March 29, 2023

Bangor YMCA presented additional information about their new construction and programs to Bangor City Council during a workshop meeting. The total estimated cost was revealed to be $52,710,469. Councilors split over the suggestion of increasing the ARPA allocation for the YMCA’s project to $3 million (+$1 million). That decision has been tabled for now.

Councilors also met with the Heart of Maine United Way to discuss having them handle the application process for organizations seeking ARPA funding from the city of Bangor. Councilors agreed. Hearth of Maine United Way was forthcoming about a potential conflict of interest: they had previously applied for ARPA funds through Penobscot County and that application may make its way to Bangor. United Way assured Council that they would not be involved with the process on their own application.

The application process was approved by the Council and applications will be available starting April 3, 2023.

April 26, 2023

ARPA grant application closed. 60 applications were received, totaling $37,733,886 in requests. A general breakdown of the requests was published as part of the agenda packet for the May 9th Bangor City Council Workshop. The review process for these applications is expected to go through June 9th.

April 30, 2023

Q1 2023 Project & Expenditure Report deadline. Bangor filed on time, but did not report any of the allocations it had made to this point. The U.S. Treasury encourages all recipients to report obligations as soon as they’re incurred. You can view Q1 2023 Project & Expenditure for Maine recipients on this Google Sheets spreadsheet I created.

July 5, 2023 – The Secret Ballot Debacle

At a City Council Workshop, the results of a survey councilors took anonymously using SurveyMonkey.com were revealed. The survey allowed councilors to select any of the top 25 (as ranked by the United Way Heart of Maine) projects that councilors did not wish to move forward with. Then, of the bottom ranked 34*, councilors could only select 5 projects they wanted to see moved forward for consideration.

*United Way Heart of Maine did not rank/review its own application, therefore were not part of this survey.

Any item would require 5 votes to pass. Only 8 councilors participated. The survey was so anonymous that it was unknown who the one councilor was that didn’t participate. No project in the bottom 34 received the 5 votes required to be moved forward. Given the constraints, the odds of getting enough votes were 1 in 2500.

Given that the selections were anonymous, and binding, I raised my concerns with City Council that this was a violation of Maine Law.

July 10, 2023

Bangor City Council officially approves $415,600 in ARPA funding for the Bangor Area Recovery Network.

One of the applications ranked lower than 25 was the Local Firefighters’ Union. Shockingly, only 2 councilors supported the firefighters in that survey-turned-secret-ballot. In response, the firefighters showed up to speak at public comment during this meeting. They told their stories of loss and sacrifice during the pandemic and made the case for why they needed this funding.

I spoke publicly, raising the concerns again that the survey was a violation of Maine Law, and I demanded that they throw out those results and vote publicly.

July 11, 2023

Bangor City Council held an ARPA workshop the following day. They did exactly what I had asked: they held a public open-or-down vote on each of the applications. The question put before the councilors: do we move this application forward for consideration? A passing vote would not guarantee funding, but it at least would give the application a shot at potentially being funded by allowing the councilors to openly discuss the merits.

The following projects received passage for a conversation that previously were denied:

  • Bangor Symphony Orchestra: Went from 3-5 NO to 6-3 YES
  • Literacy Volunteers of Bangor: Went from 3-5 NO to 9-0 YES
  • Fresh Start: Went from 4-4 (Needed 5) to 6-3 YES
  • Food AND Medicine Workforce Navigator: Went from 4-4 (Needed 5) to 6-3 YES
  • Food AND Medicine Gardens Program: Went from 0-8 NO to 5-4 YES
  • Partners for Peace: Went from 3-5 NO to 7-2 YES
  • Bangor Halfway House: Went from 0-8 NO to 6-3 YES

Note: I point this out as an example to you on how one person CAN make a difference. And it’s also a reminder to myself for why I stay engaged. These individual projects had to stand on their own merits, but at least they got a second chance once the process was conducted in a fair and transparent manner.

The firefighters only picked up 2 additional votes for a total of 4. 1 short of being considered. The city published the final vote tallies on their website, but not a record of how each councilor voted specifically. Don’t worry, I have you covered.

July 24, 2023

Council approved $67,000 for Eastern Area Agency on Aging.

August 14, 2023

Council approved the following:
Christine B Foundation – $100,000
Bangor Housing Development Corporation – $2,000,000
*Food AND Medicine (Community Gardens) – $75,000
*Bangor Symphony Orchestra – $40,000
Habitat for Humanity Greater Bangor – $1,000,000
Maine Multicultural Center – $70,700

* Did not receive enough votes on the anonymous survey. Given a second chance in the open vote.

August 28, 2023

Council approved the following:
Together Place Peer Recovery Center – $154,765
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid Maine – $130,000

September 11, 2023

Council approved the following:

*Fresh Start Sober Living – $500,000
*Literacy Volunteers of Bangor – $50,000
Penobscot Community Health Center – $2,484,880

* Did not receive enough votes on the anonymous survey. Given a second chance in the open vote.

September 25, 2023

Council approved the following:

*Food AND Medicine (Workforce Navigator) – $261,342
Together Place Housing – $375,000
St. Andre’s Home – $50,000
Penquis CAP – $1,500,000

* Did not receive enough votes on the anonymous survey. Given a second chance in the open vote.

October 11, 2023

Council approved the following:

Bangor Children’s Home – $350,748
Bangor YMCA – $2,000,000
United Way – $400,000
Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness – $648,000

October 23, 2023

Council approved the following:

Health Equity Alliance – $694,700.00
Wellspring – $441,540.00
City Of Bangor – $400,000.00*

* $200,000 allocated from SLFRF funds, $200,000 from accrued interest on SLFRF funds

January 8, 2024

Council approved the allocation of $250,000 for the construction of up to six (6) public restrooms within the city of Bangor.

January 22, 2024

Council approved the following:

Bangor Nursing & Rehabilitation – $50,000
Shaw House – $550,000

The City Council also reduced the award to Wellspring, previously approved on October 23, 2023.
Previous amount: $441,540
New amount: $221,540