LEWISTON — The city has received its first tax payment tied to the New England Clean Energy Connect project, the result of new valuation that allowed Lewiston to lower its property tax rate this year.

The $1.55 million in property taxes paid by NECEC, the Central Maine Power project, represents roughly half of the full year’s payment, and comes as a November referendum seeks to halt the controversial transmission line that’s already under construction.

The statewide referendum, through a citizens’ initiative, hopes to kill the project by banning “high-impact” transmission lines in the upper Kennebec region and requiring the Maine Legislature to approve such projects, which would be retroactive to 2020 — before CMP’s parent company, Avangrid, had received the necessary permits.

City officials Monday said they are not planning specifically based on possible outcomes of the referendum battle, but are staunchly against the effort. They see the tax revenue as an important piece of the city’s revitalization, and one that could finally get Lewiston out of the shadow of the recession in the late 2000s.

Heather Hunter, interim city administrator, said the tax payments were budgeted for this year, which allowed officials to lower the tax rate from $29.67 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $28.26.

More than $100 million in new valuation came online this year tied to the site work and related upgrades underway at 1651-1653 Main St., the site of a Lewiston converter station. Officials held a news conference in late June to announce the new valuation and its impact on the city’s budget.

Hunter said the most “immediate impact” from the new tax revenue is the impact on the city’s tax rate, but that the City Council may also decide to start adding back programs that were lost in the late 2000s and were never revived. She said Lewiston’s recreation programs are “well under the industry average” based on the city’s population.

Referring to the upcoming referendum, Hunter said there’s no specific measure that would repeal the work that’s already been done, meaning she expects the tax impact gained by Lewiston so far would “stay on the books.”

However, she said, she’s concerned for the referendum’s broader implications for how major infrastructure projects are handled in the future.

Ted Varipatis, a NECEC spokesman, said this week that tax payments made so far are “based on work already done in these communities and the money is theirs regardless of the vote in November.”

“Of course, future payments over the next two decades wouldn’t happen if the project is killed, but this is money paid out and in these towns’ coffers,” he said.

Mayor Mark Cayer said Monday that he’s hopeful that NECEC will ultimately continue, given its benefits to Lewiston, but said he already sees the city gaining in new investment.

“We’ve had some really good economic development in our community over the past year and a half,” he said. “We’re moving forward one way or the other. This project will allow us to do a lot of work, but we’re still moving in a positive direction.”

So far, Lewiston is by far the biggest municipal tax recipient from NECEC. Other municipalities receiving payments so far include Embden, New Sharon, Cumberland, Pownal, West Forks, Moscow, Anson, Industry, Jay and Durham. The municipality with the second-highest tax assessment is Jay, at $146,695.

In September, the City Council passed a resolution reaffirming support for the project. The Lewiston substation will convert and transmit hydropower from Canada to southern New England.

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