BENTON — After listening to a presentation about setting up a development district around part of the Central Maine Power substation on Albion Road, residents affected by noise from the substation voiced their complaints regarding the little that’s been done to quell the sound or help the neighbors affected.
Scott Cyrway, who lives on Benton Road with the substation just beyond his property, said that while he appreciates the town’s commitment to working with CMP to mitigate the sound, he feels that not enough has been done to help the residents directly affected by the sound.
“I feel like collateral damage,” Cyrway said. “We are victims, and it’s up to the town to say to CMP â€˜what are you going to do to help them?’”
The substation has been affecting nearby residents since May with a persistent buzzing noise. While the utility company claims that it remains in compliance with town ordinances after several sound-measurement tests both at the substation and residents’ properties, representatives said in February that it will run additional studies to see which, if any, sound mitigation techniques would muffle the noise, which Cyrway described at Monday’s meeting as an airplane getting ready to land. The additional tests are expected to take roughly six months.
Cyrway cited a neighbor, Cherrie Strohman, who has Parkinson’s disease and has said that the sound has made it difficult to sleep and has affected her condition, said that something needs to be done to make up for what the affected residents have been put through.
“Nothing has been done to take care of the people suffering,” he said, adding that he’s concerned about the property value of his home due to the sound. “We need some incentive from CMP to show they are fixing it.”
The selectboard stressed that it has been doing everything it can to pressure CMP into fixing the noise issue, but wouldn’t go as far as stepping in to help individual residents with any litigation or settlements with the utility company.
“The town would be going down a slippery slope if it started concerning itself with monetary gain for individuals,” said selectman Antoine Morin.
Before the comments on the substation noise, a presentation about a tax increment financing district involving a portion of the substation’s property taxes was delivered by Noreen Norton, an economic development consultant working with Benton and the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments.
The presentation outlined the savings and potential economic development the town could realize by sheltering a portion of the property tax income from the substation with a TIF.
By creating a TIF involving the substation, town officials hope to prevent Benton from having to pay a larger percentage of the county tax and education expenses while receiving less in municipal revenue sharing from the state, according to Morin.
The extra costs and reduced state aid would result from the substation boosting the amount of taxable property in town.
If the town approves the TIF, which will be put to a vote at the annual Town Meeting this Saturday, it would save the town over $2 million in tax-shifted savings over 30 years, according to Norton.
Options for potential development with the TIF money — which would also have to be approved by vote — include building on the natural resources of the town, specifically along the Kennebec River and Sebasticook River, paying for and growing the annual alewife festival, and looking into the creation of a business park on Neck Road.
It’s not uncommon for towns to create TIFs to ward off raises in county tax or drops in municipal revenue sharing.
Unlike some TIFs, where some of the property tax money goes back to the business to pay for a development project, the TIF proposed for the substation still requires CMP to pay all of its roughly $300,000 per year in property tax to Benton.
The annual Town Meeting, where residents can vote on the TIF and other town budget articles, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, March 15.