March 5, 2011

Wind farm developer offers $120,000 to save teaching jobs

By Terry Karkos, Staff Writer, Sun Journal, 5 March 2011

WOODSTOCK – A Massachusetts-based wind developer announced early Friday evening that it has offered to donate $120,000 to SAD 44 to save three teaching jobs at Woodstock Elementary School.

Todd Presson, chief operations officer of Patriot Renewables LLC in Quincy, confirmed the gift but was unsure of the process that either the school district or town must go through to use the money as intended.

“We had been looking for ways for a while now at becoming part of the community of Woodstock, where we’ve been for a couple of years developing (a wind farm),” Presson said.

On Oct. 5, 2010, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection approved a land-use permit for Patriot Renewables to build 10 wind turbines and the necessary power lines and access roads along the ridgeline of Spruce Mountain.

Presson said the project coordinator, Tom Carroll, attended a few meetings of the school’s Parents-Teachers Association, and asked if there was anything the company could do to work with the community.

“One of the PTA members looked at him – and this was in the middle of the budget stress they were having – and said, ‘Do you have $120,000?’” he said.

“Tom wasn’t able to say yes or no at that point, but we thought about it and we’d be happy to help out, basically, if we can go forward with our wind project for Woodstock this spring,” Presson said.

He said the company has money budgeted and allocated for legal challenges.

“As long as we don’t have any further legal challenges, we can use that money to help the school out, but it sounds like something we should be behind and we’d like to be behind,” Presson said.

He said that on Feb. 4, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection denied an appeal by Friends of Spruce Mountain against approval of Patriot’s estimated $37 million Spruce Mountain Project.

By the end of next week, a 30-day period to appeal that decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court expires, Presson said.

David Murphy, SAD 44 superintendent, declined comment Friday evening on the donation, saying he hadn’t been aware of it.

But Linda Walbridge, director of the Western Maine Economic Development Council in Paris, said the money would save three teaching jobs cut earlier this year.

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