Hampden residents on Tuesday soundly defeated a proposal to build a $4.5 million municipal broadband network that would have reached underserved areas of the community.
Residents voted 1,407-981 against the bond issue to fund the broadband network while reelecting two incumbent town councilors and returning a former member to the council.
After the council decided to put the question about issuing bonds to build a town-owned broadband network to voters, two companies — TDS Telecom and Spectrum — announced that they would expand coverage to serve the entire community.
Town Manager Paula Scott last week credited the bond issue with prompting the private service providers to expand their networks in town.
“We consider this still a win for the town and would likely not embark on our own municipal model if these companies are going to finally service the unserved and underserved areas of town,” she said.
The bond issue on the ballot attracted the attention of a conservative Maine think tank whose sister organization, Maine Civic Action, campaigned against the question primarily by buying ads on Facebook. The group also sent out mailers and did some canvassing, according to spokesperson Jacob Posik.
The organization has said it plans to get involved in more local discussions about broadband expansion as Gov. Janet Mills’ administration devotes millions of dollars to expanding broadband service in the state, with municipally owned broadband networks likely to figure into that expansion.
The town did not launch a campaign urging residents to support the bond issue.
In the race for council, incumbents Eric Jarvi and Ivan McPike garnered the most votes, with 1,185 and 1,132, respectively. David Ryder, who previously served seven years on the council, received 1,256 votes.
Matthew LaChance came in third with 916 votes, followed by Anita McCormick with 905 and Kimberly Slininger with 859.
The at-large councilors begin serving their three-year terms in early January.