OAKLAND — Town Manager Peter Nielsen is asking residents to weigh in Wednesday on whether they want the Oakland Town Council to approve a tax break for a company seeking to build a natural gas pipeline from Richmond to Madison.

“It’s a big deal,” Nielsen said of Kennebec Valley Gas Co.’s request for Oakland to support financially its proposal to run a 60-mile pipeline though 12 communities, including Oakland. The company would provide natural gas to businesses and residences along the route by 2013.

“The council is interested in the public telling them whether they want to support the company to make this happen,” Nielsen said, adding the council, to date, generally has approved of the concept of 6.4 miles of pipeline running through Oakland.

The Kennebec Valley Gas Co. was established by Mark Isaacson, Richard Silkman and Anthony Buxton in 2010. The Public Utilities Commission granted the company’s conditional $70 million-$80 million project approval in August 2011.

By the end of this year, the gas company wants to secure 15-year tax increment financing deals with each municipality through which the pipeline would pass, as well as lock in commitments from three critical anchor customers — Huhtamaki, Sappi and Madison Paper.

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

In the first 10 years of the proposed TIF agreement, the gas company has stated, 80 percent of new property taxes related to the project would be returned to it and 20 percent would go to the communities.

In years 11 through 15, 60 percent would be returned to the gas company and 40 percent would go to the respective communities.

For the first decade, Nielsen said, the agreement would result in Oakland receiving about $20,000 in new revenue per year; and in years 11 through 15, it would mean $40,000 annually would be added to Oakland’s coffers.

Towns have an approved list of items for which revenue from tax increment financing deals can be used. In Oakland, Nielsen said, it probably would be put toward Oakland’s $47,000 annual assessment for First Park, a regional business park off Kennedy Memorial Drive. The payments would help reduce the town’s tax burden, Nielsen said.

The town manager said the council could decide Wednesday to approve the deal or it could postpone its vote.

Oakland would not be the first community to approve the request.

Last month, Augusta city councilors unanimously favored giving the tax break to help the proposed natural gas pipeline come through, and into, that city.

In general, Nielsen said he has heard more support for than opposition to the proposed project, which would give residences and businesses along Main, Church and Oak streets the possibility of having natural gas service.

Company officials have said residential and commercial users who convert to using natural gas could expect to reduce energy costs by 30 percent to 40 percent.

Nielsen said some citizens have expressed concern about the safety of natural gas and others have indicated it is not the government’s role to financially assist private businesses.

The town manager said he is not sure what would happen if the Oakland Town Council were to reject the TIF request.

“The company,” Nielsen said, “has come to municipalities saying it needs this to get funding for the project.”

The public hearing will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Williams Elementary School at 55 Pleasant St.

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]

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