Lack of vision and an inability to understand the importance of preserving a town’s character and its sense of place, combined with the negative impact of commercial development, has made Fairhaven what it is today.
A big part of our problem has been Executive Secretary Jeff Osuch and this non-elected public official’s ability to control town government. His blind confidence in new technology has made us a testing ground for pet projects.
This time, the town has been sold on two giant misplaced wind turbines by using a smokescreen of environmentalism. Again, he has masterfully played town government to make it happen.
Fairhaven’s executive secretary has a habit of using our town as a place to experiment with, but he’s had some help. A Nov. 15 Advocate news story, “Fairhaven still waits for turbine decision,” says that Brian Bowcock has led the charge for wind power for nearly a decade. Less than five years ago, he was pushing the Azurix/Enron Regional Sludge plant; before that it was the Netco Regional Sludge Plant, and before that it was the demolition-debris, wood-fired sludge plant. While on the Finance Committee, along with every other town official, he supported the BioSafe Regional Dump.
Jeff Osuch conceived these projects, Mr. Bowcock was usually the pitchman and the rest followed like sheep.
Soon after Azurix, Mr. Osuch decided it was time to erect a series of 400-foot-high industrial wind turbines along the Nasketucket Marsh and Little Bay. At the 2004 annual Town Meeting, the project got off the ground. But why announce any plans until everything was set?
This is what Mr. Osuch had to say about the turbines in 2004 in the Standard-Times of May 7: “There are no plans, no agreements, no proposals at this time.” The first step was to build regulations around the project he had in mind.
The 2004 Town Meeting was not about citizens controlling any future proposal. It was all about laying the foundation. Framing the setbacks would be the next step, and the Planning Board fell right in line. So what if that meant ignoring what every expert had to say about distances between turbines and homes? It’s all about the greater good. Mr. Osuch knows what’s good, and Mr. Bowcock bows to him, and the good ole boys always go along to get along.
After the regulations and setbacks were hatched, a request for proposals came. Next the song and dance was performed. And finally, after everything was in place, this year’s Town Meeting vote was orchestrated.
In the recent Advocate article, Mr. Bowcock said, “I think the MTC walked away with a feeling that Fairhaven has embraced the alternative energy concept and that it would be good for the community and the country.” He must be referring to the warm feeling they and the developer had after leaving the May Town Meeting.
After a chaotic Town Meeting, he had the gall to say the town has embraced this project. He said, “It’s for the good of the community and country.” This will not help anybody breathe easier, but it will be one more downward spiral in our community’s quality of life.
Jeff Osuch believes this is a done deal. From the S-T Dec. 7: “CCI Energy is doing a wetlands survey, and a report on it is expected to be submitted to the town’s Conservation Commission for review by the beginning of January, Mr. Osuch said. The project also has to go before the Planning Board, according to Mr. Osuch, but both reviews are expected to go smoothly.” Maybe not.
May’s Town Meeting vote demonstrated a large division of opinion concerning this project. It was not embraced. If the MTC, the developer Mr. Sweeney and his financial backers want the kind of fight that led to the bankruptcy of BioSafe or that ended Azurix/Enron, the citizens of Fairhaven who have the most to lose from this project and others who believe in open, honest town government, those who have had enough, can bring it to them.
By Henry Ferreira
Mr. Ferreira lives in Fairhaven.
10 December 2007