Norwich voters OK gas line expansion

Norwich - The resounding defeat of the proposed new police station did not reverberate in the second referendum bond Tuesday, as voters overwhelmingly approved an $8 million expansion of Norwich Public Utilities' gas line.

The projects were totally opposite in their tax impact. The expanded gas line not only will cost no tax dollars, but the project promises to return 10 percent of its gross revenues to city coffers by city charter.

NPU officials had anticipated voter approval of the "no-brainer" project, and started planning for the gas line expansion before the votes were cast. NPU has a list of 15 neighborhoods already targeted for the possible expansion, utility spokesman Michael Hughes said.

The list includes several side streets off Route 169, densely populated Yantic Lane and Cherry Hill neighborhoods, the area near the Norwich Recreation Department and even long, winding and rural Scotland Road, where large subdivisions in recent years could make the expansion worthwhile, Hughes said.

The prospects of future gas revenues and interest by residents and businesses along the proposed routes are key. NPU officials told residents they would not expand the line until and unless enough customers agreed to hook into the proposed expansion to cover the costs.

If all 15 of the proposed streets are done, NPU estimated it would take up $7.6 million of the $8 million bond.

Hughes said NPU is not tied to those streets for the possible expansion. NPU is soliciting interest among residents and business customers throughout the city for possible gas expansion. Customers are invited to call NPU customer service at (860) 887-2555 to register their interest or send an email to naturalgas@npumail.com.

"We have seen a tremendous amount of interest in natural gas recently," said NPU General Manager John Bilda. "We thank the voters for the faith they have placed in us. We will use this new bond in the same responsible manner we have with the last one. This referendum will allow us to continue to expand our natural gas service without burdening taxpayers or current ratepayers."

c.bessette@theday.com

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