Local voters in the Nov. 7 general election will have a chance to register their views on pursuing a plan for harnessing wind power in town.
Officials have talked for the past two years of trying to install a wind turbine in town. They’ve worked with wind power experts to identify possible sites but haven’t taken the plan any further. In a nonbinding referendum, they will gauge residents’ sentiments.
Question 11 on the ballot will ask, “Should the Town pursue the installation of a wind turbine in Bristol provided an appropriate site is identified?”
The Town Council unanimously voted to put the question on the ballot last July after being presented with preliminary results of a survey on wind energy administered by professors at Brown University and Roger Williams University.
The early results of the survey of 723 residents of Portsmouth and Bristol showed widespread support for wind energy. When asked about specific sites in Bristol for a turbine, including the Town Beach and the former landfill, the vast majority of respondents in town reacted positively.
As part of a study, Bristol’s renewable energy committee has been looking at what other communities in New England have done to use wind power.
The town of Hull, Mass., bought one turbine to power street lights several years ago and, motivated by the savings on electricity it created, recently bought a second turbine.
In March, the Portsmouth Abbey school installed the first wind turbine in Rhode Island that can generate significant amounts of electricity.
After the success of the private school’s turbine, the Town Council in Portsmouth is looking into putting a turbine at the public high school or middle school.
The proposal that has been discussed in Bristol calls for buying a turbine, erecting it on town-owned land, and using it to provide power to municipal buildings or street lights.
In the other local referendum, Question 10 on the ballot, voters will be asked to approve a $15-million bond issue that would finance open space purchases, the expansion of a public safety building, sewer repairs and a host of other projects around town.
The council has heard complaints about the wording of the referendum, which will ask residents to decide on only one question even though the bond money would go toward several projects.
The Town Council attempted to break up the referendum into several questions in August, but the General Assembly had already adjourned for the year and it was too late to ratify changes. The council subsequently pledged to stick with the proposed funding of each separate project contained in the referendum and not move money between those individual schemes.
The bonds would not be issued all at once. If the town goes out to bond for $5 million a year for three years, it would on paper raise property taxes by 15 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value. That means taxes would go up $45 for a house valued at $300,000.
In reality, however, taxes would probably not increase because of the bonds, according to Town Treasurer John Day. Payments to reimburse past loans are expected to continue to drop off in the next few years, and those decreases would offset any new payments.
The money would be divided into the following five progra $3 million for drainage work, including a survey of the Silver Creek area and a $2.5-million project to build a tide gate in the Tanyard Brook watershed and repair culverts. The work on Tanyard Brook would be the first phase of a $7-million project.
$4.5 million to replace 20-year-old screw pumps at the wastewater treatment plant. The pumps failed last November during heavy rains, spilling thousands of gallons of raw sewage into downtown streets and into the basements of houses.
$2 million for repairs to the town’s 127-mile-long network of 430 roads. Last year, the town spent $186,000 to entirely resurface two roads and parts of eight others, but Public Works director Fred Serbst says that wasn’t enough.
$2.5 million to build a new Fire and Rescue Department headquarters at the Hydraulion station off Annawamscutt Drive. The current offices, in two downtown fire stations, are old, cramped and are not handicapped-accessible, according to fire and rescue chief Robert Martin.
$3 million for open-space acquisitions to protect watersheds, preserve greenbelts and control development.
Townspeople will also decide the outcome of several other local races on Nov. 7.
Democrat Diane Mederos is running for a second term as town administrator, Bristol’s highest elected office. Mederos is facing independent Gregory Raposa, who she beat handily in 2004.
Three of the town’s six seats on the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee are up for grabs. The four-year terms are staggered; the seats of incumbents Paul Silva, William M. O’Dell and Beverly Z. Travers are contested.
O’Dell and Silva are both seeking reelection to the nonpartisan board. Harold Tucker, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the committee in 1996, and newcomer Diane B. Campbell are also in the race. Travers is not running again.
Republican Louis P. Cirillo is running unopposed for reelection to the town clerk’s position.
By Alex Kuffner
Journal Staff Writer
akuffnerATprojo.com / (401) 277-7457
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