Westport – The fate of the Town Hall wind turbine was again delayed Monday as selectmen held voting on a contract until Wednesday to get more information on costs and other variables.
The town and contractor Steve Pitney, of Alternate Energy, agreed in principal to a contract last week, but some selectmen wanted to find out how much it would cost for the Highway Department to do preliminary and foundation work and how much the cost in materials has risen since Alternate Energy bid on the project more than a year ago.
After more than an hour of debate, the Board of Selectmen voted shortly after 10:30 p.m. Monday to consider the contract on Wednesday, when it meets before Town Meeting begins its second night.
Selectmen Gary Mauk and Robert Rebello, who have opposed the project because they say it won’t produce enough energy, wanted to table a vote on the contract until the next regular selectmen meeting May 19.
The contract considered Monday includes a guarantee the turbine will produce a certain average of energy monthly and a payment schedule that would give Pitney 30 percent of the total cost – $63,400 – up front. But unlike in earlier contract proposals, the 120-foot turbine would now connect to the Highway Department garage instead of Town Hall.
“That’s a significant change,” Mauk said. He said he has opposed the turbine because no one has ever proven that he’s wrong about the project not producing enough energy. Exact figures for increases in material costs are missing, too, he added.
Selectman J. Duncan Albert, who negotiated with Pitney along with Selectman Brian Valcourt and Town Administrator Michael Coughlin, said he wanted to wait on a vote because not all selectmen were given the contract to review last weekend.
Veronica Beaulieu, who was the selectmen chairwoman until losing her re-election bid last month, said at the meeting she doesn’t support the contract because it requires less work of Pitney (the Highway Department will pour the foundation for the tower, work that Pitney originally would have done), and because the performance guarantee requires fewer kilowatt hours of energy a month than an earlier contract signed by selectmen but not Pitney.
Rebello said the location behind Town Hall “doesn’t warrant a turbine.”
“I’ll never vote to have a wind turbine surrounded by trees,” he said.
No motion was made Monday to vote on the contract. A motion by Rebello to hold a vote until May 19 ended in a deadlock because Albert said he had “mixed feelings” and thought the matter should be voted on before then. The contract hasn’t been reviewed by town counsel, Albert said, and legal pitfalls could exist, Coughlin added.
Pitney said at the meeting that materials like steel and concrete were cheaper a year ago but didn’t say exactly how much the costs have risen. Valcourt warned that costs could increase $2,900 within the next week because new prices from the manufacturer will go into effect.
But Albert said he wasn’t worried about the increase and expressed frustration with Pitney for delaying the process by not responding for months to the contract signed by selectmen last October.
By Grant Welker
Herald News Staff Reporter
6 May 2008
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