|Bethlehem Steel stockhouse now a visitor center|
Bangor's brownfield, an old incinerator site and quarry dump, is much smaller. Just 79 acres. But it has been a complete flop. That point was driven home on Tuesday night's Executive debate between the two mayors, John Callahan from Bethlehem and John Brown from Bangor.
Callahan took Brown to task over his failure to develop the site, which is controlled by Bangor Borough and Bangor Authority. To be more specific, he blasted Brown for participating in a scheme to sell the site to a Jersey developer who spent a stint in prison for dumping toxic waste.
Brown responded that his economic development focus has been on storefronts. He assured the debate audience he was “very outspoken against” the sale to that “type of individual”.
But according to information supplied both by the Callahan camp and in my own research, Brown appears to have misspoken.
This site is no dream. For years, the Borough Authority had tried to redevelop it without success. Then came fast-talkin' Art Fletcher from Jersey, who said he'd buy it, fill it up with dirt and install solar panels. He even talked the Authority into fronting $75,000 for all kinds of tests.
People were suspicious, but Mayor Brown was not among them.
You see, Fletcher suddenly started dumping at the site, and residents were concerned it might even be radioactive waste.
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Brown was absent from that meeting.
As details about Fletcher began to emerge and he failed to make a down payment, the deal eventually died. There was no toxic waste, though Bangor Mayoral candidate Joe Capozzollo does glow in the dark.
There is no record that Brown ever took any position supporting or opposing this developer. In fact, according to The Express Times, he defended the Borough when citizens expressed their displeasur. He suggested they go to meetings that he himself missed. The Morning Call has a similar account.
Although Brown never supported this project, there's no evidence that he opposed it, as he insisted during the debate.
But that's a minor point. It's easy to get mixed up in front of a large crowd. The major point is that one mayor had the vision to see the potential of a gigantic 1400-acre brownfield. But in Bangor, a much smaller one remains undeveloped under a mayor who missed meetings and spent his time chastising the public.