FREEDOM – Steve Bennett, a dogged opponent of the proposed wind farm on Beaver Ridge, has decided not to run for re-election as a selectman. Ron Price, an equally ardent supporter of the project, has filed papers to replace him.
Price, who recently moved to Freedom, previously served as a selectman in Knox. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
Ballots will be cast Friday, March 30, at the Freedom Grange Hall. With Price the only declared candidate, he appears likely to win the seat.
Bennett said his decision not to run has little to do with Beaver Ridge, where he and several of his relatives own land. Price owns an adjoining hilltop parcel where Competitive Energy Systems of Portland seeks to erect three 400-foot-tall wind turbines.
The proposal has split the town, with a majority of residents backing the project but a vocal minority solidly against it.
Bennett also owns two businesses and serves as chairman of FUTURE MSAD 3, which is engaged in a $575,000 campaign to fund enhancements to the $40 million school complex in Thorndike that will replace the aging Mount View.
“I’ve just got to let go of something,” he said. “The wind power issue was not a major factor.”
Bennett, who was elected three years ago, survived recall votes in 2005 and 2006 by wide margins. He pointed to several accomplishments during his tenure as selectman, including the development of a long-range plan to improve the town park and efforts – not yet completed – to gain town control over the dam on Sandy Pond.
“I think Sandy Pond is the town’s greatest natural asset, but the dam has allowed to deteriorate,” he said. “The pond is entirely manmade – the dam is 10 feet high and the pond is 11 feet deep – so the condition of the dam is important.”
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection claims ownership of the dam, as does an out-of-town landowner, according to Bennett. The issue is now in court.
Bennett said work still needs to be done to get the town’s sand pile under cover. “We can’t continue to put sand on the ground and mix it with salt, right in the floodplain,” he said.
Despite the controversies during his term, Bennett said the job has been enjoyable “for the most part.” The town now has staggered terms for its selectmen, and the two who remain on the board – Tim Biggs and Lynn Hadyniak – will serve Freedom well, he said.
“They have been wonderful people to work with,” Bennett said.
By Andy Kekacs
25 February 2007
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