LEWISTON — Changes to Central Maine Power Co.'s utility line upgrade through the city would add $3.5 million to the project's cost.
City councilors will consider creating a tax-incentive district to cover those additional costs. The changes, recommended by residents around the city, would put power lines farther away from some private homes and reduce the upgrade's impact on some neighborhoods.
"CMP's job is to find the least expensive way to get the job done," said Lincoln Jeffers. "That's what their original plan set out to do and that's what the Public Utilities Commission will decide on. If we want them to do these changes, we need to find a way locally to pay for them."
Councilors are scheduled to vote on the TIF district at their regular meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Called the Maine Power Reliability Program, CMP's proposal calls for upgrading a swath of power lines, beginning in Eliot and passing through central Maine to Orrington, where they connect to lines from Canada. Along they way, they pass through Litchfield, Monmouth, Leeds, Greene, Lewiston and a corner of Auburn at the Durham line.
In some places, lines would be rebuilt or replaced. In other places, lines would be added, including 115-kilovolt and 345-kilovolt lines. The 345-kilovolt poles, not common in Maine, are wider than traditional power-line towers and, depending on location, are about 20 to 25 feet taller than the lower-voltage poles.
The project would affect about 4,000 property abutters statewide. If approved, it could take three to five years to complete. Opponents say the 345-kilovolt lines buzz and emit an electromagnetic field they fear could cause cancer. Abutters say the new lines would lower their property values
Lewiston residents began meeting in January, trying to get the utility to change the path. Any changes must be approved by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
CMP is expected to pay the city an additional $1.5 million in property taxes each year, once the upgrade is complete. Councilors said in June they favored using some of that new revenue to pay for the changes.