Norwich Public Utility gas system expansion wouldn't cost taxpayers

Norwich -The first question on the Nov. 6 ballot calls for an $8 million bond to expand the Norwich Public Utilities natural gas system that would not cost taxpayers any money.

NPU has no bonding authority on its own, so must seek city approval for major projects. If the $8 million bond is approved, it would be paid for entirely through new revenues received from the new residents and businesses that would hook into the system, NPU officials said. Existing natural gas customers also would not pay for the expanded gas line.

If approved, the new revenues provided by the gas line expansion actually would add money to the city's coffers, because NPU turns over 10 percent of its electric, gas and water revenues to the city in a general fund grant each year.

NPU would conduct surveys of densely populated areas that are not served by natural gas lines to be sure enough new customers would be added to the system to pay for that portion of the line.

Unlike sewer lines, residents and businesses along a natural gas line would not automatically be charged an assessment fee. Only those who hook into the natural gas line would pay for the line, with a portion of that customer's fees dedicated to paying the bond.

There has been little campaigning to date about the natural gas bond, as some political leaders are gearing up for a final pre-election week push for the more controversial police station bond. Mayor Peter Nystrom said the gas line project promotes itself, with NPU's success record on a $3 million natural gas line bond approved two years ago to prove it. NPU General Manager John Bilda said that expansion covered 5.5 miles of gas lines and two miles of connections from streets into about 500 homes.

c.bessette@theday.com

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