SOMERSET – The Town Board delayed voting Tuesday night on a contract with Empire State Wind Energy to erect windmills.
Supervisor Richard Meyers and the board will wait until Friday for information, when an attorney from the town’s law firm has reviewed parts of the contract still in question. Once the information is presented to the board, a special meeting will be held to vote on approval of the contract.
Causing controversy was a provision in the contract that took away the town’s right to take legal action against a government agency. Robert Roberson, an attorney representing the town’s law firm, said he believed it was illegal for a town to sign away its right to take legal action.
“By agreeing to give up that right, the town loses its ability to protect itself and its citizens,” Roberson said.
The town still maintained the right of first refusal, and a clause for a removal and restoration plan, should the windmills be taken down, still existed in the contract.
Meyers motioned to postpone the vote, but he said he still felt the contract needs to be voted on soon.
“If we keep dragging our feet, we may lose the contract. The amount of time we’ve spent on this is getting ridiculous,” Meyers said.
Councilwoman April Gow expressed concern the contract would hurt the town in the long run.
“What if the state decides to put in 70 windmills in the town? We won’t be able to do anything,” Gow said. “We are basically signing away our right to sue or do anything if [the state] comes in.”
Countering concerns, Meyers said many other towns have signed similar contracts with the wind energy company.
“Empire State Wind Energy is looking to protect itself during the construction of the windmills. The agreement between the town and Empire is strictly for the project,” he said. “Empire doesn’t want the project to be stopped half way through because litigation between our town and the state comes up.”
Until Roberson could further research whether it is illegal for a town to give up its right to sue a government agency, he cautioned Meyers about including the provision.
By Christopher Michel
9 January 2008
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