July 13, 2020

Animal shelter may house search team

BANGOR — When plans were made for the city’s animal control offices to move into the new Bangor Humane Society last summer, it seemed clear that councilors shared the same thoughts about what to do with the old shelter at 541 Maine Ave.: Tear it down.

That is still a likelihood, but there may be one more tenant before the metal building is dismantled: Dirigo Search and Rescue.

David Martin, Dirigo’s president, told the city’s municipal operations committee Tuesday that his group would like to use the building until the end of 1999, the length of time members think it will take them to build a home of their own.

Dirigo has been using the old Essex Street Recreation Center on Watchmaker Street for the past few years, holding meetings and training there, and using the facility as a gathering place when conducting a search and rescue. The city did not charge rent, but was reimbursed for utilities the group used.

Last summer, the city agreed to allow the Bangor Police Athletic League to make plans to share the building in order to expand its activities which serve 400 to 500 youths a year.

Police Officer Keith Mercier told the committee Tuesday that initial plans call for paving a basketball court and putting in a skateboarding area, something that would give skateboarders a better place to use than the downtown area.

A ropes course also is planned, he said. “We’re going to staff it seven days a week with volunteers,” and parks and recreation staff may help out during the summer.

But there isn’t enough room in the facility for both groups, Martin said, so Dirigo would like to use the animal shelter instead. It takes a good amount of space, he explained, for members to clean, dry and sort equipment after a rescue.

Councilors seemed interested in allowing Dirigo to use the animal shelter for a time, while keeping in mind City Manager Edward Barrett’s point that the reason the building was still there was arrangements with the Bangor Humane Society would not really be permanent until the first year is over on July 1.

Things seem to be going well, Barrett said, but both parties have the option to withdraw from the agreement during the first year. He didn’t want to get rid of the building until it was definite that the city would not need it again.

Speaking in favor of allowing Dirigo to use the shelter was parks and recreation Director Dale Theriault, who told the group he would look for another city building when it became apparent there would be a space squeeze on Essex Street.

Theriault pointed out that while the city donates $750 each year to Dirigo for the services it provides the city during the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race each April, the actual value of those services is $10,000 to $20,000. He added that he expects both Dirigo and PAL to conduct outdoor activities, even some of them joint ventures, at the 54-acre park at Essex Street.

The consensus of the committee was that the city should draw up a lease for the animal shelter.

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