MADISON – Somerset County residents who attended a town hall-style meeting with Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday night heard the governor make a case for a Portland company’s proposal to build a natural gas line in town.

Madison residents are considering whether the town should borrow $72 million to start its own natural gas company. Meanwhile, Kennebec Valley Gas is proposing a pipeline from Richmond to Madison.

About 100 people attended the governor’s Capitol for a Day event at Madison Area Junior High School, part of a series that includes every Maine county. They asked LePage about proposed public funding of religious schools, a possible east-west highway across the state, and ways to reduce energy costs.

LePage discussed energy options after Cory King, executive director of the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce, described the issue as crucial to the region and the state.

LePage and state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin said they hope that natural gas lines will extend into the area soon.

Without being asked, LePage said he thinks it would be best for a private company to build a gas pipeline.

“If I were the people in this community, I would think you want to protect your tax base. You want to make sure that you get the most for your money, and the most for your money, to me, would be having the private investor put the pipe in,” he said.

After Madison residents turned down a proposal in November to borrow $72 million for the town’s project, residents collected signatures to bring the issue to a second vote. The vote is scheduled March 13.

The town has taken no action on a Kennebec Valley Gas request for tax breaks from the 12 communities the gas line would go through. The company pushed against the town’s planned gas line before November’s vote.

Bob Farley of Norridgewock said he questions the wisdom of a new proposal to provide public funding to religious schools.

On Feb. 8, LePage and Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen proposed legislation that would allow public funding of religious schools, change the way teachers are evaluated, provide students with more school choice and expand technical education.

LePage said the issue is not about religion, but about letting students and parents choose the schools that are best for them, whether they’re religious, private or public.

“My philosophy is very simply this: It’s all about the student and — the best place for that student to get an education is where that student should go, and that choice should be left up to the parents,” he said.

Hallie Daughtry of Brunswick asked Poliquin whether he would release his land management plan, which is required for property owners in Maine’s Tree Growth Tax Program. Poliquin has been accused of inappropriately enrolling 10 acres of his Georgetown property in the program to receive a lower tax rate.

Poliquin did not answer the question, but LePage said, “The town in which Mr. Poliquin’s land is located has not contacted me to tell me he is in violation of the tree growth plan.”

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Erin Rhoda can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

[email protected]


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