UPDATED: Norwich natural gas expansion wins approval

Norwich — For the third time in four years, city voters approved a bond referendum to expand the Norwich Public Utilities natural gas system, voting in favor of a $9.5 million referendum question to extend the lines throughout the city and potentially down Route 12 to the former Norwich Hospital property in Preston.

With five of the city’s six voting precincts reporting by deadline Tuesday, the referendum vote tally was 3,898 in favor and 2,3721 against the proposal.

The $9.5 million project includes $5.5 million dedicated to continuing expanding gas lines in Norwich, $2 million to extend the line to the Preston Riverwalk property if a development is proposed there that would pay for the project, and another $2 million to expand use of automated metering upgrades.

No taxpayer or ratepayer money will be used for the projects. NPU has pledged to run new lines only to neighborhoods where enough residents and commercial users have agreed to tie into the system to pay for it. The same plan would be used in deciding whether to run the new line to Preston Riverwalk, the former Norwich Hospital property.

In 2010 and 2012, Norwich voters approved similar referendum bonds of $5.5 million each time to expand natural gas lines in densely populated neighborhoods. The new bond should complete the expansion to all areas of the city where gas lines are practical and enough customers reside to pay for the lines, NPU General Manager John Bilda said.

c.bessette@theday.com

Twitter: @Bessettetheday

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