WESTPORT – Nearly three months after selectmen signed a contract for a Town Hall wind turbine, the dispute between the town and the contractor remains unresolved.
The prolonged dispute has raised doubts in some people’s minds whether the project will ever happen.
The contractor, Steve Pitney of Plymouth-based Alternate Energy LLC, objects to the town’s plan to pay him in annual installments over 13 years, instead of a single payment. Meanwhile, town officials have argued the language formalizes a guarantee Mr. Pitney had made.
Town Administrator Michael J. Coughlin said the town has set no deadline for Mr. Pitney to respond to the disputed contract. Mr. Pitney said he wants selectmen to go back to how the town originally advertised the project.
“At the moment, all I have done is ask them to go back to the bid documents,” Mr. Pitney said.
During the Oct. 9 selectmen meeting, Mr. Pitney offered a guarantee that the town would recoup its $18,400 investment through savings in 13 years or he would pay the difference.
Mr. Coughlin said in an earlier interview the contract signed by selectmen Oct. 22 “reflects the representations and guarantees Mr. Pitney made.” However, the contractor said he never agreed to what he considers a no-interest financing scheme.
Town Meeting approved the plan last 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 a 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.
Mr. Pitney said the project is in limbo now.
“It has not been a huge priority for me, because I’m putting up windmills for much more money” than the town project, he said.
David P. Dionne, chairman of the Westport Alternative Energy Committee, said the project is as good as dead at this point, and he does not see it coming back at the annual Town Meeting in the spring.
While some town officials view the contract as a fair way to ensure the guarantee is met, Mr. Dionne said it is unreasonable.
“I think the prospects are very poor,” he said.
By Brian Boyd
Standard-Times staff writer
15 January 2008
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