MADISON — The town’s proposal to construct a natural gas pipeline from Richmond to Madison failed by 27 votes on Tuesday.

The final vote was 697 voting yes and 724 voting no, Town Manager Dana Berry said. More than 1,400 people, or 45 percent of registered voters, turned out to cast ballots.

Madison officials had proposed to bond for a $72 million pipeline and had planned to use pipeline revenue to offset property taxes. They encountered opposition from Portland-based Kennebec Valley Gas Co., which also has plans to build a line.

The private company helped fund a local group called Madison Taxpayers Against Bad Debt, which sent oppositional mailings and organized a push poll over the last couple weeks.

Berry said the town appeared evenly split on the issue.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do yet,” he said at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. “I think the town’s voted, and if that’s what the town wants to do, that’s what will go forward.”

Residents offered an assortment of views Tuesday on the town’s proposal.

Roxanne Cannon said she voted no because “I don’t think it’s a good idea for Madison to take on that responsibility by themselves when there are so many other communities involved.”

Daniel Clough, who voted yes, offered a different opinion. “If a privately owned company can make a profit on the gas pipeline, it’s certainly going to be a benefit to the town of Madison,” he said.

He was referring to Kennebec Valley Gas Co., which is competing with the town to build the line through 12 communities.

While the company would turn the profit from the pipeline back to its investors, town officials said they wanted to use the profit to offset municipal taxes.

Tammy Robbins also voted yes. “I come from New York, and that’s what we use,” she said, adding that natural gas is cheap and efficient.

But Geneva Asselin said she was wary of the risk of bonding for $72 million and cited mailings from Madison Taxpayers Against Bad Debt, funded in part by Kennebec Valley Gas.

“I feel it’s going to cost us a lot of money, and they said they’d put our homes up for collateral,” she said.

Town officials and the town’s lawyer have said the mailings were misleading and that the pipeline would act as collateral, not resident’s homes, in the case of a potential default.

Lisa Meunier also balked at the large sum and voted no, saying, “I think we spend enough as it is.”
Brian Bonneau said he doesn’t believe revenues from the pipeline will offset its cost, particularly because the Maine Public Utilities Commission will set the rates. He said there will be additional costs for residents to convert their heating systems to natural gas.

Ryan Pinkham did have confidence in the projected revenue and voted yes. “It’s going to happen anyway, so we might as well get a tax break out of it,” he said.

The town has estimated the pipeline will offset about all of the municipal budget after five years of operation.

Leland Moore also voted yes, saying the pipeline will help create jobs.


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