MADISON — Residents rejected a plan in referendum voting Tuesday to borrow up to $72 million to possibly build a local natural gas distribution system.

The final vote was 316-421, with 57 percent opposed.

Even though selectmen left a natural gas pipeline project up to a private company to pursue, residents still went to the polls to vote on whether to borrow $72 million.

A yes vote would have given selectmen the authority to possibly build a pipeline through central Maine if a project by Kennebec Valley Gas failed, construct distribution lines to connect with homes and businesses just in Madison or nothing at all.

A no vote, however, will not prevent the town from building the smaller distribution lines in town, Town Manager Dana Berry said. Whether Kennebec Valley Gas or the town builds them will be based on a number of factors, including who is willing to run the most pipe, he said.

“It’s not going to be the end of the world if it gets turned down,” he said.

Voters leaving the municipal building offered an assortment of views on the proposal.

Even though she lives in East Madison and might not benefit from a pipeline, Elizabeth Lindsay voted yes because she said she thought allowing the town to have the ability to do the project would increase the chance of it happening, resulting in a benefit to local businesses.

Cindy Kennard also voted yes because, she said, “I think we should keep our options open. Anything that could boost our economy would be a good thing.”

Others weren’t so sure. Dan Mantor Jr. owns a dairy farm and said he has little use for natural gas and doubts the advantages to the town. He voted no.

“Every time they want to do something, taxes go up,” he said.

Gary DeMerchant also voted no, saying he didn’t like the idea of selectmen having access to so much money without a set plan.

Tuesday marked the second time residents went to the polls to vote whether to borrow $72 million.

Residents gathered petition signatures to bring the bond issue back after the first referendum question failed by 27 votes in November. Back then, the proposal was to construct the line through 12 communities, from Richmond to Madison.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368
[email protected]

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