BARTON – After winning a long, frustrating battle in the courts, First Wind has taken on a new opponent – the weather.
The Barton Village Trustees seemed surprised Monday night to learn that First Wind plans to move the massive pieces of the Sheffield wind project up Duck Pond Road through a narrow window of time that will open on about November 1 and slam shut on November 30.
First Wind representative Josh Bagnato asked the trustees to “start the clock” on the six-week notice the company is required to give before it starts moving 132 truckloads of wind turbine parts and equipment through the south end of the village.
Mr. Bagnato did not come empty handed. He handed the trustees a check for $10,000. That creates an escrow fund to pay for any minor road repairs required while the big rigs are moving.
He also brought a letter of credit guaranteeing that $83,400 would be available to repave Duck Pond Road when the job is done.
And he reassured Trustee Ellis Merchant that, before the first truck moves through the village, First Wind’s transport company will post a $1-million bond to cover any unexpected damage to village roads or underground utilities.
Though there is some haggling still to be done over the precise terms of the letter of credit, the three trustees agreed unanimously that the six-week notice period would start Monday.
That suggests that the loads could start to move on October 25. They are barred by the village on weekends, and on state holidays and the day before state holidays. Hours are limited to daylight, excluding an hour each morning and afternoon when school buses are on the roads.
All these conditions emerged from tough bargaining sessions between the trustees and First Wind in the spring and summer of 2009.
A key concession was that – except for the oversize pieces that will be delivered by highly specialized trucks – construction materials like gravel and concrete won’t come through Barton Village.
Duck Pond Road, which provides the closest access to the remote sites of First Wind’s 16 turbines, climbs out of Barton Village through the town of Barton, runs parallel to Interstate 91 and cuts through a corner of Glover before passing under the interstate in two oversize culverts and descending to meet Route 122 in Sheffield.
The construction materials will arrive at the site through Sheffield, not Barton, First Wind has pledged.
The turbine parts might just squeeze through the “pipes” under the interstate, Mr. Bagnato told the trustees last year. But the clearances would be so small, he said, that the transportation contractor declined to go that route, for fear that one of its huge trucks would get wedged into an underpass.
He said that the contractor, TransGroup Worldwide Logistics, would be bringing pieces of turbine to Sheffield from Maine, Iowa, and Texas.
The trustees initially ruled that construction workers should drive their cars and pickups to the site through Sheffield, but dropped that requirement at the request of the chamber of commerce, whose members feared loss of the business the workers would bring to town.
The big loads won’t come through the center of Barton Village. They will arrive from the south on Route 5, and turn up Duck Pond Road at the south end of Barton’s business district. First Wind bought the house at the foot of Duck Pond Road to make room for the trucks to negotiate the corner. The heaviest loads will be helped up the steepest part of the road by a tractor-like “assist vehicle.”
The trustees expressed some skepticism Monday night that First Wind could beat the weather. Mr. Merchant speculated that freezing rain might make it impossible to move the big loads.
“You always have snow in the second week of November,” said Trustee David White. “That’s deer season.”
First Wind’s decision to move the turbine parts this fall seems to have come at the last minute, after it won an appeal against the project in the state Environmental Court. Mr. Bagnato told the trustees he had been up at the site Monday, getting crews started on the necessary logging and road building. They could be found there Tuesday, felling trees and delivering heavy equipment.
The village’s agreement with First Wind ends on November 30, and will have to be extended if deliveries are needed next spring.
Lawyers for First Wind and the village were left to work out changes needed in the letter of credit which guarantees the company’s promise to repave the first half mile of Duck Pond Road when the job is done.
Mr. Bagnato said he’d obtained a local estimate that the job will cost $139,000, and figured that, with three-tenths of a mile of the pavement in the village, its 60 percent share would come to $83,488.
However, the letter of credit submitted by the Royal Bank of Scotland was for $83,400.
While the trustees weren’t inclined to call the deal off over $88, they were clearly unhappy. “It’s not a big deal,” Mr. Merchant conceded. “Eighty-eight dollars isn’t going to tar very far.”
The other problem was that the letter said it would be bound by the laws of New York State. The village’s attorneys, Bill and Sara Davies, wanted that changed to Vermont, but the bank was balking.
Mr. Bagnato said that the $88 could be restored to the village and that, if necessary, the letter of credit could be replaced by another escrow account. He promised a resolution before the six weeks are up. A list of other issues, including coordination with the Barton Fire Department when the big loads block Duck Pond Road, also need to be resolved during that period.
In other business, Village Superintendent Brian Hanson told the trustees a new portable pump is needed to clear water out of the fire hydrants before winter. To prevent freezing, he said, the water is replaced with nontoxic antifreeze each fall, and after a hydrant is used in cold weather. The pump will cost between $300 and $400.
The village’s International truck needs about $2,000 worth of repairs, Mr. Hanson said.
“It’s our main truck,” said Scott Wright, chairman of the trustees. “We’ve got to get it fixed.”
Mr. Hanson said the village will flush out water mains from September 20 through 23. “Hopefully this will take the odor out,” he said of a smell that has bothered water customers. “This is a temporary fix,” Mr. Hanson added. “We seem to have it every year when it warms up.”
The trustees discharged a property lien after a village electric department customer’s overdue bill of $112 was paid.
With tax bills due to go out Friday, September 17, the trustees approved village tax rates that, in total, have dropped a little from last year.
The new rate is 95.23 cents for the general fund, 7.14 cents for water, and 11.90 cents for sewer, for a total of $1.1427 per $100 of appraised value.
Last year’s rates were 91.57 cents for the general fund, 7.24 cents for water and 19.89 cents for sewer, for a total rate of $1.1870
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