RUMFORD – Upon learning Wednesday night that the Maine State Planning Office’s model wind ordinance was merely a template and not an actual working document, selectmen voted 4-1 to put only one ordinance before voters in November.
The proposed ordinance is the culmination of nine months of work and research by the Board of Selectmen’s Wind Power Advisory Committee.
It is a document that Neil Keily of Massachusetts-based wind developer First Wind LLC publicly labeled a permanent moratorium on wind farms. First Wind has tentatively proposed building a wind farm atop Rumford mountains.
About 50 people attending the workshop and special selectmen’s meeting that followed in Rumford Falls Auditorium also learned from Board of Selectmen Chairman Brad Adley that someone allegedly threatened Adley, an unnamed selectman and Town Manager Carlo Puiia with an ethics investigation if they included the state model wind ordinance on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Adley said that after speaking with fellow board members, “we’re aware that (the state model) is nowhere near ready, so we’re going to leave it at that.”
Adley recently pitched to the board and strongly advocated that the state ordinance be placed on the ballot as a working ordinance.
After Adley sought a motion to put an ordinance on the Nov. 2 ballot, Selectman Jeff Sterling asked that it be the Town of Rumford Wind Energy Facility Ordinance.
Discussion began after it was seconded by Selectman Greg Buccina, a staunch advocate of the committee’s ordinance, which he and Adley helped to create.
Selectman Mark Belanger said he didn’t like either ordinance.
He wanted to extend the moratorium on wind power projects to draft an ordinance that would incorporate “the best of both worlds.”
Buccina read a statement wherein he summarized the committee’s work and cited distinctions between the two documents to prove his stance.
He said that after its first few meetings, the committee decided it would be in the town’s best interest to draft an ordinance.
“We decided to create an ordinance that would be designed to first and foremost protect the citizens of this community and secondly, to allow a wind development facility to come into the community if it were to comply with the Rumford wind ordinance,” Buccina said.
He said the state model ordinance was meant to be retrofitted with protective standards that could be more or less restrictive than state regulations.
“I truly believe the Rumford ordinance drafted by its citizens far exceeds the state model, which was intended to be provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to render any legal advice,” Buccina said.
He said it would be “totally irresponsible” for the board to put the state model before voters and urged selectmen “to do what is best for our citizens and endorse the Rumford ordinance as written.”
Many in the audience erupted in loud applause.
Sterling said he saw the committee’s ordinance as a logical conclusion to the process started nine months ago.
“I think that if this ordinance is voted in the affirmative, it will be the will of the people and we’ll be on our way,” he said.
“If it isn’t – and I’m certainly not advocating either position – but if it isn’t, we’ll just have to go back to the drawing board and start over again on Day One after the election.”
Sterling said that after the board’s vote, it became the job of wind power proponents and opponents to sell their positions to the public.
“That hasn’t been our job from the very beginning,” Sterling said. “Our job is to just move the process along and see it to a logical conclusion, so I would advocate yes to put this on the ballot.”
Reading from a statement, resident Candace Casey argued that the committee was only designed to educate the public and selectmen, and not to draft an ordinance.
Adopting the committee’s ordinance, in her opinion, would be bad for the economic development of Rumford, she read.
Adley then addressed the alleged intimidation attempt.
“I’m a little troubled by this, but Carlo and I had a visitor last Friday,” he said. “It was on the verge of political blackmail, but he said that two selectmen and Carlo would be investigated for ethics violations if we moved forward with the second proposal.”
Calling that revelation unexpected and “disturbing,” Adley said he backed away from advocating the state model.
Puiia, on the other hand, said he didn’t see being warned by more than one person that they would be investigated for unethical conduct or behavior as a threat.
“It’s a bunch of horse crap, to me,” Puiia said, and urged all to put it behind them and move forward. “This board has done a good job.”
Puiia said it’s his job to remain impartial and to represent all Rumford residents no matter their political divides.
“I’m not supposed to sell wind and I’m not supposed to regulate. It’s the citizens’ decision,” Puiia said.
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