Streetplus’ services range from litter and sidewalk snow removal, to security, to hospitality and social service work.
Bangor may consider enlisting a New York-based company to help clean up the downtown. Graffiti is seen underneath the Union Street. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Bangor is considering enlisting a New York-based company to help clean up the downtown and keep people safe, but there’s uncertainty whether such a service is needed.

Bangor city councilors heard a proposal, spurred by Downtown Bangor Partnership, from Streetplus, an urban safety, cleaning and hospitality service, on June 12. While Streetplus could offer daily cleaning and landscaping services downtown, the company’s employees also receive social service training designed to help them interact with a city’s homeless population or those struggling with substance use disorder or a mental health crisis.

While some councilors agreed such a service could benefit Bangor’s downtown, others felt the city’s existing and forthcoming departments and programs could complete those same tasks. Some councilors wondered whether Streetplus could hire the staff necessary to serve the city.

Since starting in Brooklyn in 1991, Streetplus has partnered with more than 90 communities across 14 states and employs about 650 local “ambassadors” to offer whatever services a community needs, according to Steve Hillard, the company’s founder and president.

Streetplus’ services range from janitorial and landscaping duties, like picking up litter and sidewalk snow removal, to security, hospitality and social service work. Those offerings could include licensed security or social service personnel patrolling streets.

After walking around the city last Monday, Hillard said he noticed Bangor could benefit from weed abatement, sidewalk power washing and graffiti cleaning.

The proposed contract with Streetplus would cost the city about $410,000 each year over the course of the three-year deal. That cost, which would total at least $1.2 million, covers Streetplus’ staff and equipment needed to serve the downtown, said Betsy Lundy, Downtown Bangor Partnership’s director.

Streetplus also hires people locally to address a city’s needs, but Councilor Clare Davitt wondered “how could they recruit and hire when we haven’t been able to for similar positions?”

Downtown Bangor Partnership sought out Streetplus after a joint needs assessment completed this spring identified a need for supplemental cleaning, hospitality and security services, Lundy said.

With a residential population of 3,000 that swells to 14,000 during the workday, Lundy said Bangor’s downtown would benefit from specialized cleaning services because it’s the area that sees the most heavy and varied use.

“With increased use comes an increased need for care,” she said.

A third party taking care of smaller maintenance tasks also frees up city departments, like public works, parks and recreation and police, to focus on larger jobs elsewhere in the city, Hillard said.

“In some ways [Streetplus and police] are providing some of the same measures, like a sense of safety, but they’re very different approaches and we need both,” Lundy said. “I think our police force gets called out all the time to things that could be handled by someone else.”

With 10 staff vacancies as of Thursday, Bangor police Sgt. Jason McAmbley said the department would benefit most from more officers, as it hasn’t been fully staffed in years.

Lundy said this is the third year she has proposed hiring Streetplus.

“The last two years, [the city] told us they’d handle it in-house, and that hasn’t happened yet, not because they don’t want to or they don’t care,” Lundy said. “They just don’t have the capacity.”

The public works department’s downtown division, however, is fully staffed and has expanded its downtown service offerings in recent months, according to Aaron Huotari, Bangor’s public works director.

The department has employees and crews tasked with daily downtown maintenance, ranging from picking up trash and needles to cleaning graffiti off infrastructure, Huotari said.

Streetplus’ personnel also receive social service training, Lundy said, so they know when and how to address anyone who is unhoused or struggling with substance use disorder or a mental illness.

“A person walking around picking up trash needs to understand the difference between a person who is unhoused or suffering from substance use disorder sitting on a park bench — which is absolutely fine — and someone who is creating a quality-of-life infraction or suffering from a mental health breakdown,” she said.

Since adding licensed social service workers to Streetplus’ offerings 12 years ago, Hillard said those workers have helped get 59 people who are homeless into housing.

“If we see someone who is violating an ordinance, our first approach is to approach them in a professional, polite and kind way and advise them,” Hillard said. “In most cases, people appreciate that and they’ll stop what they’re doing.”

If someone doesn’t stop unacceptable behavior, Hillard said the social service workers can call police or the Bangor Community Action Team, or BCAT, the city’s community crisis response team.

City Council Chair Rick Fournier said he believes the city’s existing and forthcoming services cover those offered by Streetplus. He pointed to the BCAT team, which launched in March, and addresses situations that don’t require police. They often include vagrancy complaints and welfare checks.

The city also plans to launch a new park ranger program, Fournier said, and has included funding for it in the latest municipal budget. The program would oversee daily patrols of downtown parks, the waterfront and harbor, and downtown areas like West Market Square and the Kenduskeag Stream Trail.

Before the city decides whether to hire Streetplus, Bangor’s department heads will compare the company’s service offerings against what tasks the city needs help with and what city staff can handle on their own, according to Anne Krieg, Bangor’s development director and planning officer.

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...