BANGOR, Maine — When Art Morgan started working with the city of Bangor as a civil engineer, the city’s waterfront could barely be called that.
The site was covered in railroad tracks and transfers and oil storage tanks. The lumber bulkhead — today built out of steel — was deteriorating and falling into the river.
People couldn’t go near the water because sinkholes opened up, some of them 20 feet deep, according to Morgan.
“The city was concerned people would fall in and never be seen again,” he said.
Now, it’s open green space and serves as home to the popular Waterfront Concert Series, the American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront, the KahBang Music Festival and more.
“Watching [the waterfront] transform from railyard and tank farm to a destination not only for citizens of Bangor but for people from all over this region, that’s been a big, big project for us that I take a lot of pride in,” Morgan said during a Tuesday interview.
Morgan said he’s retiring after more than 26 years in the public sector because “the timing is right.”
“I really am looking for something different to do at this point in my career,” he said, adding that he likely will continue doing engineering work privately.
As city engineer, Morgan oversaw infrastructure and building projects for the city. That included everything from working with the water department to plan digging for pipe replacements to overseeing building and demolition projects to road resurfacing efforts.
He said he also takes pride in working on the Cascade Park restoration in the early 1990s, making the fountain operational, shoring up the water channels, and overall helping to make it a place people wanted to be.
Morgan said he would have liked to see the city’s West Market Square revitalization through to its completion, but will continue watching with interest.
The project, slated to start this spring and run through summer, will be a headache for both businesses and residents, he said, but would cause far more trouble if it didn’t get done. The sewer and water infrastructure in those sections of Main Street and West Market Square date to the Civil War and World War I eras and have reached a breaking point.
“It’s hard to justify spending the money on something you don’t see or care about — until it doesn’t work anymore,” Morgan said.
In the end, people will see the value of the work, he said.
“It’s the heart of downtown Bangor and we’re making it into a gathering place that will be a transformation similar to what we did on the waterfront,” he said.
City Manager Cathy Conolow said the city would advertise to find a new city engineer, hopefully hiring for the position in June or July.
The Holden resident said dealing with residents has been both his favorite and most challenging part of his job.
“It’s traumatic to tear up somebody’s neighborhood, but it’s nice to be able to walk down the street after you have and see people appreciate it,” Morgan said.