At the request of Chairwoman Veronica Beaulieu, selectmen have returned $64,400 in funds approved for a Town Hall wind turbine to the town’s stabilization fund.
The vote was 4-1 with Selectman Steve Ouellette voting against it.
On Tuesday, Mr. Ouellette said, “We should be using that money for what it was intended for.”
Mr. Ouellette said he was “shocked” that Ms. Beaulieu’s proposal came at the end of the meeting after audience members and the press had already left. It was not listed on the agenda.
“It’s a disappointment to keep doing things like that. That’s not the kind of government I like,” Mr. Ouellette said.
Last year’s Town Meeting approved taking about $64,000 from the town’s stabilization fund and using it for a wind turbine to serve Town Hall. Since then, the funds have never been spent.
Ms. Beaulieu said her main objection now is that the money was removed by the town treasurer from the stabilization fund where it was earning interest and placed in the general fund. If it is not spent, it could be “swept up for something else,” Ms. Beaulieu said.
“That happens quite often, especially with things the way they are and with a shortfall, it could go into general use,” the chairwoman said.
“If viable proposals are made, we will continue to look at that,” Ms. Beaulieu said. Any future proposal would require another vote at Town Meeting.
Ms. Beaulieu said she supports using wind turbines to generate revenue for the town but that there is insufficient wind behind Town Hall. The wind speed there was estimated as about 10 miles per hour on average. Ms. Beaulieu said the tall buildings and trees make that an unsuitable area for a wind turbine.
“I never did think that was the place to put it,” Ms. Beaulieu said. If a windier, more suitable site is found … I am all for it.”
Ms. Beaulieu said she would like to see a cluster of two to three wind turbines in another area of town. She said some residents have offered the use of their land.
Ms. Beaulieu said wind turbines would not have to be connected to a town building, but could be connected to a grid. She said if located properly, in a windy area, the town could get some revenue from an electrical company.
Ms. Beaulieu said the wind turbine proposed by the Alternative Energy Committee is the same size as the one her brother-in-law uses on his property. She said it is big enough for a private residence but not Town Hall. She also raised safety considerations should a turbine fall over on municipal property.
The proposal to put the funds back into the stabilization fund will be made in an article for the special Town Meeting warrant in May. The special Town Meeting takes place during a break in the regular Town Meeting. It is often used for such items as transferring town money from one account to another.
The majority on this Board of Selectmen has opposed the Town Meeting vote ever since it passed by about a two-thirds majority last May. Selectman Gary Mauk tried to reverse it on Town Meeting floor after many of the proponents left the auditorium.
Many residents who were in favor of a wind turbine left immediately after it was approved. There is a specific time period under which a vote can be reopened, during which Mr. Mauk made his request.
Mr. Mauk and Selectman Duncan Albert have both argued that the wind turbine, as proposed, did not make financial sense.
The funding for the wind turbine would have come largely from a state grant. The cost to the town would ultimately have been about $14,000.
The wind turbine contract has been at a stalemate since the board stipulated that it be what Mr. Ouellette called a “no interest 13-year loan.” The town would have had the option to stop making payments to the Plymouth-based turbine installer “if it didn’t perform well.”
Mr. Ouellette said the board drafted the tough contract as a way to stop the wind turbine from being built. He said asking the contractor to respond to a “ridiculous contract doesn’t wash with me.”
Mr. Ouellette said if the board wanted to move forward and explore other options, it has had plenty of time to do so since the May 2007 Town Meeting vote.
“They could have gone for a bigger wind turbine and explained other options and they didn’t,” Mr. Ouellette said.
Commenting on the very windy weather the area has experienced lately, including some 30 mph winds last week, Mr. Ouellette said. “That meter could have been generating some nice revenue for the town.”
By Peggy Aulisio
26 March 2008
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