Westport – Plans for the Town Hall wind turbine project could revert to how they were laid out more than a year ago in a request for bids: the turbine would again power Town Hall instead of the Highway Department garage, the contractor will be responsible for foundation work and there will be no performance guarantee.
The Board of Selectmen will be asked by the town attorney to vote on a new contract at its earliest convenience. The latest changes are the result of a bid protest made by former Selectwoman Veronica Beaulieu to the state Attorney General’s Office.
The town attorney and some members of the Alternative Energy Committee attended the meeting in Boston Wednesday, along with Beaulieu, Selectman Brian Valcourt and others. Beaulieu did not withdraw her complaint, and she said Thursday she will only do so when the changes are definite.
“I’m satisfied if they, in fact, do what they say they will do,” she said. Steve Pitney of Alternate Energy, which will build the turbine, was not at the hearing but said Thursday he’ll be happy to return to the original specs.
“I’ve been waiting to do that since last May,” he said. But, he added, cost increases in building materials of a few thousand dollars will need to be included in the contract.
Valcourt, who made the turbine a main part of his platform for election this spring, said he was “absolutely” satisfied with what was tentatively agreed upon at the informal hearing, mediated by two members of the Attorney General’s Office.
Selectmen Chairman J. Duncan Albert isn’t sure yet how he might vote on the contract, he said. Monday’s selectmen meeting is scheduled only for appointments to town boards, Albert added, so he doesn’t plan to discuss the turbine then.
After Alternate Energy was awarded the project, specifics began to change. A guarantee that the 120-foot turbine would produce a certain amount of energy monthly was included in the contract, the town was given a larger share of foundation work and the tower was to connect to the Highway Department garage instead of Town Hall.
Beaulieu filed a complaint May 23 claiming the town should have sought bids for the work a second time because specifics had changed and the original bid included a construction completion deadline of Feb. 1, 2008.
David Dionne of the Alternative Energy Committee said he doesn’t understand how anyone benefitted from “all the fuss” that has surrounded the project.
“Essentially, we’re exactly back where we back over a year ago when the selectmen refused to accept what the energy committee had put together for them,” he said.
The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative needs to approve a $45,000 rebate for the $63,400 project before any work begins, but securing the rebate may be more difficult than a year ago. A report of MTC-funded wind turbines by an environmental consulting group said “installers almost universally overestimate annual energy production.”
A program director for MTC said the agency has had “active discussions” regarding its review process of small wind turbines.
By Grant Welker
Gatehouse News Service
19 June 2008