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Public shut out at wind meeting  

I attended the Oct. 9 Potter County Planning Commission meeting and was disappointed. Friends of mine are concerned about the impact of wind turbines on not only the land value, but the quality of their life on property they have worked long and hard to improve.

On the other hand, recognize our need to develop independence from foreign oil, as well as the need to develop forms of energy that don’t pollute. I have seen wind turbines bordering huge farm fields, and thought they were actually pretty, and probably a good thing.

I have since become aware of some other questions:

– Would the foundations of the wind turbines disrupt the water table, affecting local water sources, or even the Allegheny watershed?

– Does the flicker generated by these turbines affect the mental and physical health of those who live and work near them?

So it was that I decided to attend the meeting of the Planning Commission.

Before I entered, I heard an allegation that PCPC Chair Wanda Shirk had been coached by representatives of the company putting up the turbines on how to “manage” citizens who might object. That, I confess, got to me.

Layout of the room was fascinating. A large table took up approximately half the space. Around this sat the Planning Commission. Another row of chairs seated representatives from AES and the press. At least they could hear.

The back quarter of the room was taken up by a table with several very noisy computer-related machines. Then there were rows of folding chairs placed together so closely that a person had no room for his or her legs.

I couldn’t hear the Planning Commission very well and was forced to lip-read until a gentleman stood directly in front of me. After he made his comment, I told him that I could now neither hear nor see, and he left.

The commission apologized for the noisy machines, which they explained could not be turned off. But they had no microphones and made no effort to speak up. The same noise created the same problem at a previous meeting.

If a large attendance is expected, surely our taxpaying public deserves the courtesy of a meeting in a room in which they can comfortably sit and listen, not to mention having their concerns heard.

I am hearing from sources I respect that space and courtesy for the public may also have been lacking during at least one County Commissioners’ meeting on this subject.

I begin to feel the word “boondoggle” describes this wind turbine project. A very large amount of money stands to be made by a small number of individuals, but will there be significant benefit for the general public?

I listened to Wanda Shirk say that the issue is not about health and welfare, but really only “safety,” in case a turbine should fall down. I was not able to raise any further questions about health and welfare because the time for public comment was already over. So I left the meeting, since I was unable to hear or speak.

In this case, the democratic process was “broken” and needs to be fixed. Public servants have a responsibility to conduct open meetings in an accessible fashion.

The problem could have easily been solved by removing one of the conference tables and moving chairs forward. Or finding a larger room, with no noisy machines. Perhaps a microphone could be purchased or borrowed.

If I had been more experienced at attending these meetings I might have known that my only chance to say anything was at the beginning of the meeting. That could have been made more clear.

But I left the meeting having decided that I am not in favor the wind turbines being sited in Potter County, where the water for so many areas originates. Most individuals who have studied the issues, without anything to gain or lose, have found too many potential drawbacks.

Perhaps wind turbines are a good idea for large areas where there is more wind, and fewer homes, and less chance of disrupting the health, welfare and safety of persons who live, work and drink water.

Ronnie Schenkein, DVM

Coudersport

Endeavor News

27 October 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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