One of the seven people running for Bangor City Council this fall owes the city more than $80,000 in unpaid property taxes, utility bills and interest that date back to 2014, city documents show.
The city has also condemned two of the six properties owned by James Butler Jr., deeming them unsafe to occupy.
Bangor officials have a long history of working out arrangements allowing Butler to pay down balances on his properties and make repairs without the city taking them over. He has paid off his balances at times only to fall back into debt when a new year’s taxes are assessed.
One of Butler’s properties is a prominent downtown building at 72 State St. that he bought in 2006 and that the city condemned in 2017 after squatters were found living in it. The building had housed an insurance company, barber shop and dental practice at various points.
Butler owes the city unpaid taxes, interest and utility fees on four of his six Bangor properties from before the current tax year, according to the city’s treasury office. He owes more than $20,000 on the 72 State St. property. He owes the most money, more than $60,000, on a property he owns at 181 State St.
He owes lesser amounts on two other properties — about $2,800 on 67 Lincoln St., which the city has condemned, and nearly $2,000 on 424 State St., which Butler claimed as his residence in candidate filing papers.
In addition, city records show he has owed back taxes in the past on his other properties — a parcel of land on Buck Street and 125 Warren St.
Butler took out papers to run for City Council on Aug. 13 and returned the necessary 100 or more signatures on Sept. 1. He is the owner of Butler’s Auto Body on Main Road North in Hampden, according to a Better Business Bureau listing.
Butler described the back taxes owed as an “ongoing legal discussion” between the city and himself. He didn’t respond to questions about the properties and why he was running for council.
“My obligation to the city is current and will continue to be fulfilled,” Butler said.
None of the six other City Council candidates — Marlene Brochu, Susan Hawes, Joseph Leonard, Free Martin, Gretchen Schaefer and Dina Yacoubagha — owe taxes to the city from prior to this year, though not all are property owners.
In January, the City Council’s finance committee unanimously agreed to enter into a workout agreement with Butler on his 181 State St. property. That agreement allowed him to start paying down the balance on that property while he negotiated a sale that has not yet happened.
Generally, the city doesn’t release deeds back to property owners until they’ve paid down their balances on all the properties they own. However, the city has made an exception to that policy for Butler on three of his properties — 181 State St., 72 State St. and 67 Lincoln St. Treasurer David Little said those are the only exceptions he can remember.
In 2018, the city discussed taking possession of 72 State St. because of its deteriorating condition, mainly broken windows. But the city returned the property deed to Butler after he boarded up the windows and his bank paid off his balance to the city.
The city anticipated that he would sell the property and that it would be redeveloped, according to City Council documents. No sale happened after that, however, and Butler fell behind on taxes again.
At 67 Lincoln St., city staff had recommended that the city take possession of the property after Butler proposed to pay off the balance without addressing a problem with the foundation. The council’s finance committee, however, told the city to keep working with Butler, and he later fixed the foundation and paid the rest of his balance on the property in November 2019. After that, however, he didn’t pay taxes and utility bills for the 2021 fiscal year.
Butler’s six Bangor properties were assessed at more than $1 million this year. He’ll owe more than $25,000 in taxes for this year, according to the city assessment records.