Westport Selectmen have finally approved a contract to build a wind turbine at town hall better than a year after town meeting voters approved $63,400 for the project by a wide margin. The final debate and vote were every it as contentious as others on the subject and the decision was by split 3-2 vote.
Voting to go ahead with the contract were Chairman Duncan Albert, Steven Ouellette and Brian Valcourt. Voting against it, as they have consistently, were Robert Rebello and Gary Mauk.
Even this vote doesn’t quite make the turbine a done deal. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, an agency that helps provide funding for such projects via energy rate surcharge rebates, must still give its approval. If all goes smoothly, construction should begin this summer.
The 120-foot tall structure, to be built by Alternate Energy Co. of Plymouth, is intended to provide power to the Highway Department garage, located next to town hall.
The contract approved Monday offers concessions to both town and contractor. If the turbine does not produce 600 kilowatt hours a month, Alternate Energy has agreed to compensate Westport. The company has projected that the turbine would produce over 700 kilowatt hours.
And Westport has backed off an earlier deal breaker that would have had the town pay Alternate Energy on a 13-year installment plan.
Alternate energy recently countered with a payment schedule calling for 30 percent, or $19,020, down with another 30 percent paid upon assembly of the tower, which the company said would take two weeks. The town would then pay 20 percent, or $12,680, upon completion of the foundation and site work and the final 20 percent upon the completion certificate being sent to the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
Still, debate was heated Monday and followed a familiar course.
Mr. Mauk and Mr. Rebello argued that the location is a bad one and that lack of steady wind means the turbine will be a costly failure.
Advocates countered that wind energy is a responsible and proven technology – besides which, voters approved it by a lopsided margin.
Mr. Mauk’s initial motion to reject the contract died in a 2-2 tie with Chairman Albert abstaining.
But in the final vote, Mr. Albert broke the tie and sided with the pro-turbine group. While he said he is not convinced results will be much better than marginal, he said he would support it because it is good for the environment.
After the vote, an unhappy Mr. Mauk announced the toll free telephone number that can be used to report voter fraud.
David Dionne, chairman of the Alternative Energy Commission and longtime advocate of the wind turbine effort, said he is “absolutely thrilled” with the outcome.
“It has been a long road. We’ve been having this conversation for over a year … The crazy thing is that a dozen of these things have been built in town in the last few years and the owners seem pretty happy with them,” Mr. Dionne said. “The fact is that the price of all fuels is headed up so the value increases. Even the opponents will become supporters when the lights start to flicker.”
Mr. Dionne said he anticipates the day that the turbine can be dedicated to Bob Kowalczyk who worked long and hard on renewable energy efforts for Westport.
“That will be the real victory,” he said.
21 May 2008
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