Bangor City Councilors listen to a presentation during a council workshop March 13, 2023. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

Bangor city councilors are considering some other city and school projects its federal pandemic relief funding could support while they wait for a volunteer team to review the dozens of applications the city received last month.

The list of ideas includes supporting public art, improving bike lanes and pedestrian areas across the city and adding public bathrooms. The ideas were either proposed by city staff or brought in through the city’s meetings or surveys that asked residents how they’d like the money to be used.

A volunteer team, overseen by the Heart of Maine United Way, is considering the 60 requests for some of the city’s pandemic relief funding received last month. But it will be another month before councilors make decisions on the applications using the recommendations they’ll receive from the volunteer team.

Bangor is tasked with dishing out the $20.8 million it received in pandemic relief funding through the American Rescue Plan Act in May 2021 and January 2022. The 60 requests the city received total $37.7 million, more than triple the $12.4 million the city has left to allocate after earmarking some funding earlier this year.

The money must be allocated by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent by 2027.  

Most of the 60 applications the city received last month ask for amounts from $250,000 to $500,000 in funding, but 12 requests have only a $10,000-$50,000 price tag. Eleven proposals ask for more than $1 million and only two ask for between $4 million and $5 million.

Eighty percent of the 60 applicants are nonprofits and the remaining 20 percent are for-profit organizations.

Forty-six applications aim to address one of the city’s priorities, which councilors previously determined, including homelessness, housing, mental health, substance use disorder and child care. The remaining 14 proposals fall under a nondescript “other” category.

The requests aiming to address homelessness and child care each total about $8.9 million and housing proposals request $7 million in all.

In addition to reviewing data on the applications Tuesday evening, councilors discussed other city or school-based uses for the relief money.

Some efforts, like adding electric vehicle chargers and cleaning up used syringes around the city, are not allowed uses of the money or can be covered through other efforts or funding.

Though no decisions or allocations were made, councilors agreed Tuesday  that some money, if available, should support the addition of health clinics in two Bangor middle schools — James F. Doughty School and William S. Cohen School — to support the mental and physical well-being of Bangor students.

The Bangor School Department added one in-school health clinic run by Penobscot Community Health Care in the high school in February 2022. The clinic provides an outlet for students to receive mental and physical health support, and about 50 students access weekly mental health appointments through the clinic, according to Superintendent James Tager.

Some councilors agreed they’d like lighting and improved pedestrian areas added to the Kenduskeag Trail area along Valley Avenue. The city recently cleaned up a sprawling homeless encampment in that area after arranging housing for nearly all the people who were living in the wooded area.

Others were interested in learning more about whether the city could add public bathrooms, or hire a grant writer for the city using the funding.

Bangor placed public bathrooms, provided by Casella, in Broad Street Park and behind the Hope House in 2021, but Casella removed the bathrooms a few months later due to extensive vandalism.

Councilors also agreed they want to dole out the city’s remaining pandemic relief funding in the coming months rather than holding some for potential future ideas or needs.

City Manager Debbie Laurie said she’ll develop cost estimates for the council’s favorite ideas in the coming weeks.

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...