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Bond questions total $120M for roads, internet



ELLSWORTH — Voters will head to the polls on July 14 to participate in the state’s primary election. In normal years, and by statute, Maine’s primary election is held the second Tuesday of June. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Janet Mills moved the date by executive order to July 14.

For those wishing to vote absentee, ballots are available at your local town office and may be requested online. The application is available on the Maine Secretary of State’s website. Absentee ballots can be returned at any time prior to the closure of polls on election day. If returning by mail, be sure to allow enough time for it to arrive by July 14.

Those enrolled in a party can vote in contested primary races, as well as on the state’s two bond issues. Unenrolled voters may only vote on ballot questions.

This year’s ballot will contain two bond questions that seek to fund high-speed internet expansion as well as a variety of transportation projects.

Question 1 — Bond issue: An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue for Infrastructure to Improve Transportation and Internet Connections

“Do you favor a $15,000,000 bond issue to invest in high-speed internet infrastructure for unserved and underserved areas, to be used to match up to $30,000,000 in federal, private, local or other funds?”

A “yes” vote means that you are in favor of borrowing $15 million to improve high-speed infrastructure.

A “no” vote means that you are not in favor of borrowing $15 million to improve high-speed internet infrastructure.

The funds, if approved, would be given to the ConnectME Authority to expand high-speed internet to unserved and underserved regions of the state. The ConnectMaine Authority, according to its website, “is a public instrumentality of Maine state government whose mission is to facilitate the universal availability of broadband to all Maine households and businesses and help them understand the valuable role it can play in enriching their lives and helping their communities thrive.”

While a list of unserved and underserved areas was not addressed in the bond specifically, ConnectME’s Statewide Broadband Action Plan defines unserved potential subscribers as those locations where the available service is less than 25Mbps/3Mbps and underserved potential subscribers as those locations where less than 20 percent of the households within a geographic area have access to adequate broadband service.

The state agency estimates that roughly 50 percent of roadways in Maine are considered unserved or underserved and it aims to bring high-speed internet to 95 percent of Maine households by 2025.

The total cost, including interest, over a 10-year period would be $19,125,000

Question 2 — Bond issue: An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue for Infrastructure To Improve Transportation and Internet Connections

“Do you favor a $105,000,000 bond issue for improvement of highways and bridges statewide and for multimodal facilities or equipment related to transit, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, ports, harbors, marine transportation and active transportation projects, to be used to match an estimated $275,000,000 in federal and other funds?”

A “yes” vote means you are in favor of issuing a $105-million bond to fund infrastructure improvements.

A “no” vote means you are not in favor of issuing a $105-million bond to fund infrastructure improvements.

If approved, $90 million would be allocated for highways, bridges and MaineDOT’s Municipal Partnership Initiative (MPI) and $15 million for multimodal facilities and equipment related to transit, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, ports, harbors, marine transportation and active transportation projects.

The bond revenue would be used to match an estimated $275 million in federal and other funds.

The total cost, including interest, over a 10-year period would be $135,150,000.

“If we don’t get this bond this year, there will be dramatic impacts on what we could advertise for projects starting as soon as July and August this year,” Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note told the Portland Press Herald. “If we don’t get this, there is no plan for what we do – we’ll have to cut capital projects.”

Faith DeAmbrose

Managing Editor at Mount Desert Islander

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