BANGOR, Maine — City Councilors don’t know what they’re going to do, but they know what they will discuss.
Councilors informally outlined several council goals and discussion points for the next year during a workshop on Monday night. The idea, City Manager Cathy Conlow said, was to give city government staff a sense of direction and to eliminate useless endeavors.
“This offers us [city staff] the opportunity to say ‘Hey, what is it you want us to be working on?’ And for them to say ‘We like this’ or ‘We want something different,’ ” Conlow said Tuesday.
The goals set Monday night, which will not be binding until the council votes to do them, include:
— Extending the city’s ban on retail marijuana sales for a year.
Council Chairman Joe Baldacci and Councilors Sean Faircloth, David Nealley, Sarah Nichols and Cary Weston voiced support for the extension. Other councilors raised questions or remained mum.
More than two dozen towns across the state — Bangor, Portland and South Portland among them — have moratoriums. More towns are considering bans of marijuana and pot social clubs. The council voted unanimously on Nov. 1 to impose a six-month citywide ban of all retail cultivation and sale of recreational-purpose marijuana.
— Delaying discussion of a ban on single-use plastic bags or the start of recycling such bags until at least July 1, or after the city budget is set.
Easily the evening’s most-discussed item, the council appeared split. Baldacci, Gibran Graham and Nichols sought at least discussion of a ban, while Faircloth and Councilors Nealley, Weston, Ben Sprague and Dan Tremble wanted more public input if not a delay.
“The governments above ours are not doing their jobs, so the responsibility falls to us,” Nichols said. “It’s one of the problems of having dysfunctional government [on those levels]. It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree. It is something we have to discuss.”
Sprague proposed waiting until November or next year. With many city businesses already rebelling against the council’s support of the recently-increased minimum wage, councilors would likely gain little traction on an idea that could increase business costs, he said.
Knowledge of the issue among residents is almost nil, Sprague added.
“There’s not a clear consensus [around the city or on the council] on this. Sorting these things out will take a lot of time,” Sprague said. “It will take us a tremendous amount of time to get to a 5-4 vote on it on something that will not be positively received.”
“Every time you add layers of cost or regulation to businesses, you better be sure to have done your homework,” Nealley said, warning councilors to avoid reading small groups of ban advocates as representative of all city residents.
— Propelling the effort of a group of Maine universities, major employers and minority advocates to launch in Bangor a multicultural center dedicated to helping immigrants bolster the Bangor-area workforce. The propulsion would come from the city offering a $100,000 matching grant.
Councilors seemed to agree to discuss aiding the center but didn’t warm much to Baldacci’s idea of using city money to match a business contribution to the center of $100,000. Nealley said he didn’t know the city would play such an active role in creating the center.
In the meeting’s sharpest exchange, Councilor Cary Weston, who opposes the matching grant, took exception to Baldacci’s claim that the only alternative to not welcoming immigrants to Bangor is to see the city’s population continue to diminish.
“You just drew a line in the sand,” Weston said, adding that he drew from Baldacci’s words the implication that the city wasn’t welcoming already, or wouldn’t be welcoming unless it established a center. Baldacci clarified his statement.
“This is a welcoming city, but I think we can do more and we can adapt to the future,” Baldacci said.
— Resuming discussion on consolidating city 911 and fire and police dispatch centers into the Penobscot Regional Communications Center.
Only Graham had an objection. He said he wanted to know more about how the city would reimburse PRCC. Tremble said he might have a conflict of interest as the county’s treasurer. City Solicitor Norm Heitman said Tremble likely didn’t have one.
The issue has been a live wire. In October 2010, councilors voted to start the consolidation process, arguing that taxpayers were paying twice for the same service — once to run Bangor’s dispatch center and again to help fund the county’s dispatch operations. According to stories from the time, Bangor residents spent $562,000 annually to operate the city’s own dispatch and another $380,000 to help fund the regional center.
But a successful petition drive launched by a Bangor dispatcher put the consolidation question to voters. Three-quarters of the residents who voted killed the idea.
— Discussing the redesign of Pickering Square, including the hiring of a consultant to study whether bus routes would need to change if the city moves its bus service out of Pickering onto a Washington Street property.
City officials are considering plans to improve city bus service and redesign Pickering this year. They have about $1.2 million set aside for the square work.
Councilors held a meeting in November in which they discussed some goals, but that meeting was different, Conlow said, in that it brought councilors up to speed on what city staff was working on.