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Attorney General’s Office halts wind turbine project for Westport

Former selectmen Chairwoman Veronica F. Beaulieu said the state Attorney General’s Office ordered work stopped on the proposed Town Hall wind turbine after she filed a complaint over the bidding process.

The Attorney General’s Office scheduled a hearing for June 10 in response to the challenge, Ms. Beaulieu told reporters Monday night outside the selectmen meeting.

Contacted earlier Monday, Jill Butterworth, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said the office is not involved in the turbine proposal at this time. However, Ms. Beaulieu later showed a letter from the office seeking a suspension of work and announcing the hearing.

In reaching a new contract with the builder, the town has agreed to a deal substantially different from the original. Officials should have re-bid the project so other contractors could compete for the job, Ms. Beaulieu asserts.

“I think everyone should be allowed to bid on the same project,” she said, adding she’s not opposed to the turbine.

David P. Dionne, chairman of the Westport Alternative Energy Committee, dismissed Ms. Beaulieu’s move as a “tragic, desperate act.”

The news is the latest development in a protracted dispute over the proposed turbine.

Last month, selectmen had approved a contract for a 120-foot turbine, ending an eight-month contract dispute. The $63,400 project is contingent on the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative approving a $45,000 rebate, so the town could recoup most of the cost.

Ms. Beaulieu said the original request for proposals required completion of the project by February 2008, and the turbine was supposed to be connected to the Town Hall. She said the project is now going to be connected to the Highway Department instead.

Contractor Steve Pitney guaranteed the town would make back the balance of the cost after the rebate – $18,400 – through energy cost savings in 13 years. If it didn’t, he said he would pay the difference.

However, when selectmen voted Oct. 22 for a contract stipulating that the town pay its share in annual equal installments over 13 years, Mr. Pitney objected to what he considered no-interest financing.

Under the new agreement, Mr. Pitney would negotiate with the town for payments if the turbine fails to perform as guaranteed.

By Brian Boyd
Standard-Times staff writer

southcoasttoday.com

3 June 2008