Newly elected councilor voices opinions on Caribou’s priorities
CARIBOU, Maine — Mark Goughan, during his second formal council meeting on Feb. 12, expressed some issues with Caribou’s spending priorities, specifically the potentially $8 million public safety building project and the city’s decision to not fund the Aroostook Agency on Aging program.
He began by addressing Agency on Aging Director Joy Barresi Saucier’s Jan. 16 presentation and funding request of $4,164, which Mayor David Martin turned down due to the 2018 budget already being set.
“I wanted to express how troubled I was to learn that the City of Caribou, in their 2018 budget, no longer financially supports the Agency on Aging or the Aroostook County Action Program,” Goughan said. “For a small membership fee, these programs can provide a valued service for some of our most vulnerable senior citizens.”
The councilor said he was troubled that Caribou can’t “support such great organizations,” especially when “senior citizens” are the city’s largest demographic.
He also took issue with how the “current city charter gives little authority to new councilors” in regards to the budget, as they begin at the start of the year with a budget that was voted through by councilors at the end of the previous year.
“As a current city councilor I can not add to the  budget,” he said.
Goughan used this lack of funding to segue into his next point, which was the city’s recent decision to spend $25,000 on a study related to a new $8 million public safety building, which would house the city’s police, fire, and ambulance departments under one roof.
“Anyone should view $8 million as a lot of money during these times of high tax burdens and the slashing of social programs,” he said. “I believe a group of citizens educated on this subject can develop a responsible taxpayer funded solution. While I agree that the working space within the police department needs to be addressed, I believe that it can be accomplished more responsibly than spending $8 million of hard earned taxpayer money.”
The councilor added that he needs to “educate himself” and know the “true facts” and “options from which decisions can be made.”
While councilors discussed forming a citizens committee during a recent workshop, in addition to holding public meetings and answering any questions residents may have regarding the project, Goughan said he believes the committee should focus on “needs assessment,” and explore additional options for new buildings as well.
Specifically, he said he would like to see other options for a location explored further, mentioning that some questions raised during previous meetings included the possibility of using 60 Access Highway, and the former National Guard Armory to house the public safety departments instead of constructing a new, $8 million facility at the former Birds Eye food processing plant site on Route 1.
“The answer was that it would cost more to use these buildings than to build an $8 million public safety building,” he said. “This answer goes counter to my understanding of both construction and the needs of Caribou.”
Goughan concluded that he would “maintain an open mind” while continuing to educate himself on the subject, and asked if the city manager could provide a copy of the reports used to justify the location, scale, and costs of this project.
City Manager Dennis Marker told Goughan that much of the aforementioned information is included in the council packet, adding Goughan should feel free to ask him any additional questions about the project.