SIDNEY — Voters will decide on a tax break for the Richmond-to-Madison gas line during a special town meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the James H. Bean School.

If voters approve a tax increment financing district for Kennebec Valley Gas Company’s proposed natural gas pipeline, which would run through 12 central Maine communities, nine miles of pipe would run through Sidney.

Rich Silkman, a partner with Kennebec Valley Gas Company, has said the pipeline will save the region $25 million a year in energy costs, but the company needs communities to approve TIF districts to make the project financially feasible.

The TIF districts allow municipalities to redirect a percentage of property taxes generated by the pipeline back to the developer to help finance the project. The districts also act as tax shelters, so increased property values in those areas don’t result in increased tax commitments for towns. Also, communities can use the percentage of new property taxes they keep for economic development.

In Sidney, nine miles of pipeline would be installed in a narrow trench under Middle Road from Augusta to Oakland. The gas company has agreed to provide gas distribution to James H. Bean School and town-owned buildings on Middle Road, said Selectman Brent Dugal. The money would be used for improvements to Goodhue, Quaker and Shepherd roads.

Selectman Kelly Couture said voters who attend the special town meeting will hear from both sides of the proposal.

Dugal said he is inclined to favor the TIF, and he hopes the meeting will help dispel misconceptions.

“There is no taxpayer money going toward this,” he said. “And there are financial advantages to the town.”

According to the gas company’s proposal, the total project will cost about $85 million and would be completed by the end of 2013.

The pipeline would deliver 3 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year — the equivalent of 20 million gallons of heating oil — to industries, schools, hospitals and, in some communities, homes adjacent to the line.

Under the TIF agreement, 80 percent of pipeline’s property taxes during the first 10 years would return to the developer and 20 percent to the towns. In years 11 through 15, 60 percent would return to the developer and 40 percent to the towns.

So far, Augusta, Fairfield, Gardiner and Oakland have approved TIF districts for the project.

Skowhegan voters will decide today, Waterville City Council will take a final vote next week, and Norrigewock voters will decide during its town meeting in March.

Farmingdale and Madison have rejected the deal. Silkman said the plan is being revised to avoid communities that have opposed the TIF.

Richmond currently has no plans to vote on the proposal.

Ben McCanna — 861-9239

[email protected]

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