Five bond proposals totaling nearly $150 million will appear Tuesday on Maine’s ballot. The bond questions are the only items on the statewide ballot this year, and some say that could lead to particularly low voter turnout. But supporters of the borrowing proposals say it’s critical that Maine voters get to the polls to approve the bonds, which will go toward updating and improving the state’s roads, bridges and armories as well as facilities at community colleges and universities.

Here’s a look at the five bonds in the order they’ll appear on the ballot and the projects they’re intended to support.

— ARMORIES: $14 million would go toward maintaining, repairing and improving Maine Army National Guard centers. Army National Guard says the centers desperately need things like new fire alarms, sprinkler systems and lighting systems. About $3 million of the bond would go toward buying training land in Maine. The guard says it currently has to send units out of state to get trained.

— UNIVERSITIES: State universities would get $15.5 million to upgrade classrooms and labs for science, technology, engineering and math programs. All seven University of Maine System campuses would benefit. UMaine at Augusta would get $1.2 million to upgrade science and nursing labs, while the University of Southern Maine would get $4 million for lab renovation. University officials say the projects funded by the bond will also create badly needed construction jobs.

— ROADS, BRIDGES AND PORTS: The largest bond on the ballot is $100 million for Maine’s roads, bridges and ports. About $76 million is being set aside for roads and bridges for maintenance and improvements. About $24 million would go toward things like ports and passenger rails.

— MAINE MARITIME ACADEMY: Maine’s academy in Castine that focuses on marine-related programs would receive $4.5 million to build a new science facility.

— COMMUNITY COLLEGES: $15.5 million would go toward the state’s community college facilities, which officials say need to be upgraded and expanded to allow more students to enroll. At Central Maine Community College, $2.35 million would go toward a new building to add science labs, classrooms and offices, while York Community College would get $3.4 million to build a new 17,000-square-foot building for classrooms, computer labs and offices.

AUGUSTA (AP) — Mayors, school leaders and others who would benefit from the $150 million worth of bonds on Maine’s ballot Tuesday have made their case for why residents should vote “yes.” But the biggest hurdle to the bonds’ passage likely isn’t convincing voters of their merit but getting them to show up at the polls at all.

Five state borrowing proposals, which would fund maintenance and improvement projects for roads and bridges, school facilities and armories, are the only measures on the statewide November ballot. That could mean especially low voter turnout this year, which may play a big role in whether the bonds get approved, said Maria Fuentes, executive director of the Maine Better Transportation Association.

“Everyone you talk to knows a road or a bridge that they think needs work,” she said. “People understand it’s important. We just hope the people who feel that way go to the polls.”

Voters will be asked whether they support a $100 million proposal for transportation projects, including $44 million for highways, $27 million for bridge reconstruction and rehabilitation and $24 million for things like rails and ports.

Declining revenues from the state’s fuel tax coupled with a federal gas tax that hasn’t increased since 1993 have meant increasingly tight budgets for fixing roads and bridges, she said.

“The cost of construction in Maine has gone up significantly, but we’re still at the same funding level we were 20 years ago,” she said.

The bond package came out of a political battle in the state House over how much the state should borrow and when. Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who generally opposes mounting more debt onto the state’s books, pushed to get the transportation bond before voters in November, while Democrats wanted to wait until June to craft a larger borrowing package that included funding for things like research and development.

Democrats and LePage eventually agreed to put the transportation bond before voters in November in addition to a $15.5 million bond to renovate labs and classrooms for science, technology, engineering and math programs at Maine’s universities. An additional $4.5 million bond would go toward building a new science facility at the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.

Meanwhile, another group hoping voters turn out to the polls in large numbers is the Army National Guard. It’s supporting a $14 million bond to repair its buildings and buy critically needed items like fire alarms, sprinkler systems and lighting systems.

Meanwhile, Maine’s community colleges, which officials say are plagued with overcrowding as demand has skyrocketed, are also eager to see whether voters approve a $15.5 million bond to expand and renovate their buildings and classrooms.

“We need it, frankly, because we’re bursting at the seams,” said Chris Hall, interim president of York County Community College in Wells.

The student population of 2,000 is about double the capacity meant for the school’s single academic building, Hall said. If the bond is approved, the school would get $3.4 million for a new building with nine new classrooms, an auditorium and independent study space, he said.

The new building would be the first step toward hopefully expanding their student population, he said.

“There’s capacity to grow our student numbers 50 percent over five years if we have the physical space and the faculty to teach,” Hall said.

But the bonds are by no means a done deal. Maine residents rejected $11.3 million worth of bonds for capital improvements for universities and community colleges just last year.

Mark Brewer, political science professor at the University of Maine, said none of the bond issues are particularly high profile or controversial and spending on campaigns to educate voters on their impact has been low, which could affect how many residents make it to the polls Tuesday.

“You still have to make the case for all of these bonds to voters — in an era where fiscal responsibility is a concern — for why we have to spend this money,” he said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.