Alna selectmen

CMP floats Massachusetts project to Alna, finds support

Posted:  Thursday, September 28, 2017 - 8:30am

Construction jobs and, for towns along the new line, more tax money would come with a project Central Maine Power is pursuing, company officials told Alna selectmen Sept. 27. CMP asked for and got support from selectmen, with one abstention, Third Selectman Doug Baston’s.

Baston told CMP’s manager of government and community relations Joel Harrington and community and government relations analyst John Gaudet he has worked in energy about 30 years and has very little respect for CMP management. But he didn’t want to vote against the project because it benefits Alna, so he was abstaining, he said.

In a brief interview outside the meeting afterward, Harrington and Gaudet declined to comment on Baston’s statement. Harrington said they were very pleased to have the community’s support for the project. The company already had Wiscasset selectmen’s support, he confirmed in an email after the meeting.

Reached by phone Wednesday night, Wiscasset Selectmen’s Chairman Judy Colby said the project would be good for the town and the state, including bringing the jobs. “I’m encouraged by it,” Colby said.

Harrington told Alna selectmen the company is making a confidential bid to Massachusetts on the project that would take energy from Canadian Hydro to Lewiston for use in Maine. Harrington said New England would have more renewable energy, Massachusetts would get credit, towns the line runs though would get a combined total of $18 million in increased property value to tax,  1,700 people would have jobs building the line along CMP’s corridor and Maine ratepayers would not be funding it.

“So even though it’s a Massachusetts solicitation, it’s really a paper transaction for them. It gives them a credit to say they’re paying for that energy. Maine ratepayers don’t pay anything for that, and it’s 100 percent renewable and it really helps to diversify our energy supply in New England so we’re not hedging on one particular energy source.” He said the new line wouldn’t cut ratepayers’ bills, but should avoid a spike like one a couple of years ago due to a hike in gas prices.

CMP would not have to buy land in Alna because the project requires no widening there, he said.

First Selectman David Abbott and Second Selectman Melissa Spinney voiced support. Alna can always use more tax revenue, Abbott said. “And it sounds like a minimal impact, you’re not going to be taking any land by eminent domain, you’re just going down the middle, so it sounds good to me and I’d support it.”

In response to a question from Spinney, Harrington said CMP would have a better idea how much the town will gain in taxes closer to construction. If CMP wins the contract, work would start in 2018 and finish in 2022 or 2023, he said. CMP is competing with other New England companies for it, he said.

Also Sept. 27, selectmen made plans to follow up with Lewis + Malm Architecture about its cost projections for either a new town office or an addition to the cape that houses it now. In a Sept. 11 letter to the board, the Bucksport firm projects a new one would cost $492,000; the add-on, $116,000. The add-on comes closer to the new one in cost when improvements to the cape are factored in, selectmen said. However, they were uncertain on the cost breakdown, so they will speak with the firm’s president Charles Earley at an upcoming board meeting, they said.

The board was not interested in proposing a half-million dollar town office project to voters. “Not ready for prime time,” Baston said.

The board meets next at 6 p.m. Oct. 11 at the town office.