By Jeanne Miles, Staff Writer
SUTTON – The town has no money left to pay a lawyer for representation in a battle against a proposed wind farm.
In a letter to Norwich attorney Daniel Hershenson dated Aug. 22, selectmen told Hershenson to stop acting on the town’s behalf.
“The selectmen of the town of Sutton want all legal representation at this time to cease due to lack of funding,” the letter states.
During a meeting on May 25, selectmen agreed to spend $25,000 on legal fees. Three months later, that money was spent and then some. “The most recent bill we have received from you puts us over our limit by $3,000,” the letter states.
The letter, signed by selectmen Tim Simpson, Jeffrey Solinsky and David McCue, asks that no interest be charged on the $3,000 until the board can have a vote taken. Another special town meeting will have to be held before more money can be spent on legal counsel against the UPC wind project, selectmen wrote.
UPC Vermont Wind is seeking approval from the Public Service Board to install six 398-foot-tall wind turbines along Norris Mountain in Sutton. Another 20 similar turbines are planned for neighboring Sheffield. At town meeting in March, a nonbinding vote showed residents were opposed to the project by an overwhelming majority.
Taking its cue from the voters, the board hired Hershenson to represent the town during PSB hearings on the project. Hershenson also represented the Kingdom Commons Group in its fight against the East Haven wind project, which was eventually rejected by the PSB.
Selectmen held a special meeting Thursday night at the request of Hershenson. The board immediately voted to go into executive session to talk with Hershenson. Discussion behind closed doors would be about a contract concerning wind and pending litigation, Hershenson said. He also said he was not charging the town for his time at the meeting.
Simpson said no action would be taken after the closed session Thursday night. “Any action will be taken at the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting Sept. 28,” he said. If needed, a special meeting of the board will be called before then, Simpson said.
Unlike Sheffield, where the board of selectmen hired a lawyer to help them negotiate an agreement with UPC after voters indicated they were in favor of the project, Sutton hired a lawyer to fight the project. No negotiations with the wind developer are taking place, according to Town Clerk Dorreen Devenger.
Devenger said no money was budgeted for these legal fees so money has had to come from someplace else. Money in the road budget for paving was reduced, she said, and some purchases for her office have been delayed.