Westport – The prospect of a 120-foot wind turbine to power Town Hall may be officially gone after selectmen voted Monday night to give voters a chance to put the money set aside back to its original fund.
After voters at Town Meeting last year approved $63,400 for a wind turbine, the money was moved from the town’s stabilization fund into its general fund, where it could be spent. A year later, the money could be moved back, officially ending the first attempt to get a turbine built behind Town Hall.
“We’re not saying we’re against the turbine or won’t continue to look at the possibility,” said Selectwoman Veronica Beaulieu.
Selectman Steven Ouellette, the only member of the board to oppose Monday’s vote, said he had hoped the $63,400 would have been used for what voters approved it for. “I hope it’ll get used down the line,” he added.
The Board of Selectmen signed a contract with Plymouth-based Alternate Energy last October, but the contractor never signed or responded to the town. In January, David Dionne, who spearheaded the effort to build the turbine, said he wouldn’t try a second time.
“Not through my efforts,” Dionne said. “Who can blame (contractor Steve Pitney) for just going away? How long can you fight?”
The $63,400 should not have been removed from the stabilization fund until the expenditure was definite, Beaulieu said. With voter approval, she said, the money will be “where it properly belongs.”
Beaulieu said she favors a wind turbine that will be more productive than the one proposed for Town Hall – perhaps something taller, in a location with higher winds, or something that would tie directly into the power grid to offset general energy use.
Winds in the area have been higher than average during the last few months, Ouellette said, though he didn’t have specific data. “The dial would have been spinning in our favor,” he said. “It would have looked like a wise investment.”
Before Monday’s vote by selectmen, voters would have likely needed to approve spending on a turbine a second time. Alternate Energy was the low bidder last spring and other bidders were significantly higher. Costs for materials have risen since then, too.
Selectmen signed the contract in October after Pitney guaranteed the turbine’s performance. But Pitney hasn’t signed, nor has he formally responded to the town, since. He said the 13-year installment plan in the contract – instead of a lump sum – wasn’t fair to him.
As part of the contract, Alternate Energy would have been required to pay the difference on an annual basis if the turbine did not produce 600 kilowatt hours of electricity a month. The turbine was projected to produce about 732 kilowatt hours a month.
26 March 2008
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