Karen Fitzhugh, head of the King George School in Sutton, will testify against a proposed wind farm in neighboring Sheffield.
However, she will not be testifying on behalf of the private school but on behalf of the town of Sutton.
“I thought her testimony was important to the town of Sutton,” Daniel Hershenson, a lawyer hired by the town to fight the project, said Wednesday. The school had indicated Fitzhugh would testify, if subpoenaed, he said. One was issued Feb. 12, he said.
Fitzhugh is out of town until next week and was unavailable for comment.
Fitzhugh has been an outspoken opponent of the project at public hearings, but has never testified under oath before the state Public Service Board. That was the reason the PSB ruled Fitzhugh’s claim that the school would close if the wind farm was built was inadmissible and based on hearsay.
The possible closing of the school was a concern of the state Department of Public Service (DPS). Robert Ide, director of Energy Efficiency for the DPS, testified in July that the DPS could not support the project because it did not comply with the regional plan and would have a negative impact on the King George School.
The closing of the private boarding school for high school students with emotional problems would have a negative impact on the area’s economy, Ide wrote.
During hearings on UPC Vermont Wind’s plans to build 16 420-foot-high wind turbines in Sheffield, the PSB reconsidered and said Fitzhugh could testify. That testimony will start March 20.
In her prefiled testimony, Fitzhugh states that Universal Health Services, owner of the school, did not file testimony because of the “excessive cost” of participating. Fitzhugh wrote that her testimony was in response to UPC’s claim that any negative impact the wind project would have on the school is “unknown and unproven.”
Fitzhugh wrote that the setting for the school was chosen for its rural and peaceful surroundings. Noise from the wind turbines will disturb this peace and have a negative impact on the students, she said.
Fitzhugh cited the World Health Organization which concluded that noise levels above 30 decibels could disturb sleep.
“UPC’s noise expert states that wind turbine noise at the King George School dormitories will be at 31 dBA,” Fitzhugh wrote. Sleep disturbance will add to the students’ problems, she said.
Parents pay $73,200 in yearly tuition, plus a $3,700 enrollment fee, according to Fitzhugh.
“No parent will select this school when the chances of their child getting worse exists,” Fitzhugh said. “The presence of the turbines simply takes away a primary selling point and makes us markedly less competitive.” There are other schools in rural settings for at-risk children and parents will choose someplace else, she said.
Noise and truck traffic during construction will also be an “unacceptable disruption,” Fitzhugh said.
The loss of the King George School would be a big blow to the region’s economy, she said. The school employs more than 55 people and that payroll is spent in the community. The school also pays property taxes to Sutton and Sheffield.
Fitzhugh will be cross-examined under oath on this testimony during hearings before the PSB Mar. 20 and 21.
By Jeanne Miles
The Caledonian Record
2 March 2007
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