FARMINGDALE — Residents raised concerns about safety and digging up Maine Avenue during a public hearing Monday on a requested tax break from a company seeking to build a natural gas line from Richmond to Madison.

Rich Silkman, one of three principals of Portland-based Kennebec Valley Gas Co., told the 20 or so residents who attended the public hearing at Hall-Dale High School that the 60-mile pipeline, which will pass through the town, will bring the economic benefits of natural gas to the region, including cutting the cost of energy for large companies that employ locals.

Some residents, however, weren’t convinced of the project’s benefits and questioned the proposed tax break, which is being requested in the 12 communities the pipeline will pass through.

Bill Crowley, a Maple Street resident who spoke against the proposed project, pointed to recent reconstruction of the southern end of U.S. Route 201 and asked why the road should be dug up again.

“We put up with dirt and dust and noise and general inconvenience,” Crowley said. He added, “If you’re going to tear any part of Maine Avenue, you’re not welcome in my town.”

The estimated total investment for the project is between $80 million and $85 million, Silkman said.

Under a proposal for the tax break, known as tax increment financing, the company proposes the town would return 80 percent of property taxes to them the first 10 years after the project has started, and 60 percent the next five years.

Without the tax breaks, the gas company will not be able to build the pipeline, Silkman said.

The Kennebec Valley Council of Governments has been working as the liaison between the gas company and the towns since March, and the organization has brokered the tax break requests under consideration.

David Cyr, a Sheldon Street resident, said he supports the gas line but also wants to see some benefit to the town before supporting a tax break.

“You’re basically asking the town for an abatement to build this pipeline,” Cyr said.

He then asked Silkman if the gas company would connect the line to the high school. Silkman said they would, and also agreed to create a list of estimated energy savings to the town, which would include the high school.

Silkman also told residents a distribution line could be connected to neighborhoods that have a large demand for natural gas.

One resident asked who would be responsible for training firefighters on safety issues pertaining to a natural gas line, and Silkman said gas company would take care of the fees.

The deal, however, is contingent on signing up three potential big commercial users: Huhtamaki in Waterville, Sappi Paper in Skowhegan and Madison Paper.

Kennebec Valley Gas Co. received a conditional certificate of public convenience and necessity from the Maine Public Utilities Commission on Aug. 18.

In Farmingdale, the issue will go before voters at a special town meeting at 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10 at the high school.


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