The Somerset Town Board had a long-winded discussion debating a proposed host agreement with Empire State Wind Energy on Monday night.
Supervisor Richard Meyers voiced concern that the town was dragging its feet and land owners were waiting for action, but the board decided to carefully go through the document, get their questions resolved and untangle the legal jargon.
Empire State Wind Energy President Keith Pitman represented ESWE, with lawyer James Coniglio. Town Attorney Ed Shoemaker and Coniglio will meet to put the amended agreement back in legal terms.
It was debated whether the document was an agreement, a memorandum of understanding, a contingency plan or an agreement to agree.
“Is the town subject to being sued?” Shoemaker asked.
“It’s pretty clear, if we want to drop out we can,” Meyers said. “People are waiting for us to sign a wind agreement, and we’re dragging our feet.
Several landowners have expressed interest in putting wind energy towers on their property and they are being wooed by several companies, including AES. The Town Board selected ESWE as the preferred contractor and plans a 15-year agreement.
Councilman Randall Wayner cautioned a rush to approve and said that what the town is doing now will be binding for decades.
Coniglio said, “This is supposed to be a comfort document. We don’t want to make you apprehensive.”
“It is a complicated process,” Pitman said. “It’s a long process.”
ESWE has recently come to similar agreements with the towns of Wolcott, Butler, Benton and Rose.
The meat of the contracts will be found in Appendix A – which describes the physical details and project specifications – and Appendix B, which outlines financial issues.
“We want to take it to another level,” Pitman said. “Unless there is an agreement, we will not go forward. Are you ready to take the next step? If you think we’re putting the town at risk, we’ll walk away.
“We’re looking for town cooperation and are not adversarial. It’s a partnership.”
By Bill Wolcott
16 October 2007
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