WESTPORT – A week after the matter appeared settled, the contract for a Town Hall wind turbine is stirring new controversy.
The contractor is refusing to sign the revised contract, objecting to the town’s plan to pay its share of costs in installments over 13 years rather than up front. Town officials said they need the protection in case they don’t get the promised savings in electricity costs.
During the Oct. 9 selectmen meeting, the contractor, Steve Pitney of Plymouth-based Alternate Energy LLC, guaranteed the town would make back its $18,400 investment through savings in 13 years or he would pay the difference.
Town Administrator Michael J. Coughlin said the contract signed by selectmen Oct. 22 “reflects the representations and guarantees Mr. Pitney made.” The contractor said he never agreed to what he considers a no-interest financing scheme.
“They just don’t want the windmill,” Mr. Pitney said. “They are looking at ways to ignore the will of the people.”
Town Meeting approved the plan earlier this year, but most selectmen have been skeptical about the potential savings. Selectmen voted 3 to 2 Oct. 9 to sign the contract after Mr. Pitney’s guarantee persuaded enough skeptics.
Town officials agreed to the 120-foot turbine, at the cost of $63,400, on the condition it receives a $45,000 grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to pay most of the costs.
The town will pay $45,000 to Mr. Pitney once it receives the grant. It will pay the $18,400 in equal installments over a period of 13 years, according to the contract.
Selectman J. Duncan Albert, a skeptic who voted for the contract only after hearing the guarantee offer, said the selectmen are not trying to sabotage the project.
Mr. Albert said the installment plan is a fair way to ensure the guarantee is met, but he would consider other suggestions.
“I’m open to other options, but I’m still going to put the best interests of Westport first,” he said.
The contract was signed by the three selectmen who earlier voted in favor: Mr. Albert, Chairwoman Veronica F. Beaulieu and Steven J. Ouellette. It was also signed by the town’s accountant and attorney, Mr. Coughlin said. Selectmen Robert P. Rebello and Gary Earle Mauk were opposed.
David P. Dionne, chairman of the Westport Alternative Energy Committee, said he hopes selectmen negotiate with Mr. Pitney.
“Are they trying once again to shipwreck this deal, to negate the will of Town Meeting, or is there sincerely an opening for Mr. Pitney to come back with a reasonable counter-proposal?” Mr. Dionne said.
Mr. Coughlin said the question is how to take the verbal guarantee Mr. Pitney made and turn it into “legally binding and protective language, and that is what we have done.”
Having the town pay the money in increments is one way to formalize the guarantee, and it is the one town officials have suggested, Mr. Coughlin said.
By Brian Boyd
Standard-Times staff writer
30 October 2007
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