FAIRFIELD — The Town Council on Wednesday assured residents it is looking out for the community’s interests and moving slowly on giving a tax break to a company that wants to run a natural gas pipeline through town.

Vice Chairman Ernest Canelli III said the council is concerned with how the project proposed by Kennebec Valley Gas Company will benefit the town. He said for too many years, Fairfield has gotten the short end of the stick on projects and proposals.

“We don’t need to run blindly in,” Canelli said.

But Mark Isaacson, one of the principals in the Portland-based company, said the town has nothing to worry about.

“We plan to be in business and in Fairfield for a long time,” Isaacson said. “We have every intention of doing this right.”

Isaacson said 8.4 miles of a main pipeline would run through town and the community’s investment would total $12.2 million. The company is seeking tax increment financing from the communities the pipeline would run through. In the first 10 years of the proposed TIF agreement, 80 percent of property taxes on the project would be returned to the company. In years 11 through 15, 60 percent would be returned.

Per request of the council, Isaacson said Kennebec Valley Gas Company has agreed to run a one-mile stretch of pipeline from Huhtamaki through downtown.

Isaacson, Richard Silkman and Anthony Buxton established Kennebec Valley Gas Company in 2010 with the goal of delivering natural gas from Richmond to Madison by 2013.

“It’s an aggressive schedule, but it’s a doable schedule,” Isaacson told the 20 members of the public in attendance.

Natural gas is cheaper than oil because of discoveries of large reserves in the eastern United States, Isaacson said. Company officials said that natural gas could save users 30 percent to 40 percent in fuel costs for heating and industrial uses.

In August, the Public Utilities Commission gave conditional approval to KVGC for the estimated $70 million to $80 million project.

Kennebec Valley Gas Company is seeking 15-year tax increment financing deals from each municipality through which the pipeline would pass by the end of this year as well as secure commitments from anchor customers — Huhtamaki, Sappi and Madison Paper — and several secondary users, including Colby College and the state of Maine, from the Richmond area to Madison. Businesses and residences all along the route would also be eligible to hook up to the line.

Silkman said the pipeline would generally follow rights of way along roads and be buried about 3 feet underground in a strip of land about 4 feet wide.

Last month, Augusta city councilors unanimously approved a tax break to help the proposed natural gas pipeline come through, and into, the city. With the vote, Augusta became the first of the municipalities through which the pipeline would pass to approve a tax break. Each municipality has been asked to approve similar deals.

Last month, the Oakland Town Council also indicated it wanted to move ahead with the project; 6.4 miles of the pipeline would pass through the community.

Eleven of the 12 communities have been working with the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments on negotiating tax increment financing with the gas company.

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]


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