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Tower tailings

The events last week surrounding the Lowell Wind Tower Project have a Cool Hand Luke–type theme, or the Keystone Cops come to mind, too. There certainly was a failure to communicate, and there were also enough people running in opposite directions trying to reach the same place that a person could get exhausted just watching.

More than a few people in the area might be pleased if the 460-feet wind towers slated for the Lowell Ridge were as invisible and quiet as Gov. Peter Shumlin was when he made a hasty, low-key trip last week to the Town of Lowell.

For citizens who did not know, the governor was planning to come to Lyndon Feb. 24 to speak at the Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce annual meeting. His press aide, Susan Allen, announced that morning that he would include a stop at the Lowell Town Clerk’s office. She said he was invited by Select Board chair Richard Pion and would be at the town clerk’s office from 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. This change in schedule came two days after the governor turned down an invitation from Rep. Sam Young, D- Albany, and Rep. Vicki Strong, R-Albany, to come up for a visit. Allen told this newspaper the same day the governor declined Young’s and Strong’s invitation, he did so because “the project (wind tower project) is currently going through the regulatory process and that process needs to play out on its own.”

Wednesday, Feb. 23, a number of people and groups opposed to the wind tower project announced they would congregate the next day on the State House steps. Their concern was to let the governor know they had problems with the proposed wind tower project and they wanted to speak with him about that.

Perhaps, they did not know the governor was heading up into their territory the same day they were heading down to his.

Thursday morning, Feb. 24, when Allen announced Shumlin would make the side trip to Lowell, she also said anyone should feel free to join the governor at the town clerk’s office. And she said they “reached out” to Young (apparently, Strong was not extended the courtesy) and suggested he could bring any opponents. Allen said Young told them there were scheduling matters that would prevent Young and other local residents from joining the governor in Lowell.

Perhaps the anti-Lowell Ridge rally that was slated for in front of the State House that day might have been a conflict, but Allen gave no indication she was aware of the event.

There are no reports Shumlin stopped by to speak to anyone in Craftsbury, or Albany, or Eden, or Irasburg while going to or from his Lowell visit. Of course, a lot of the opponents to the wind tower project who live in those towns were in Montpelier, hoping to see the governor and invite him to head north for a visit to their towns.

After his stop in Lowell, Allen stated the governor remained firm in his support of the Lowell Wind Tower project and she doubted his mind would change.

The events leave several questions hanging in the air, blown to and fro as if in the wash of a wind turbine.

How come the governor blew off the invitation from two local legisla- tors to visit the area, but made a trip to Lowell two days later while only notifying one of the legislators at the last minute that he would be there?

That was rude.

How come the governor did not see any need to visit other towns that are close to and have clear views of the Lowell Mountains?

That was selective.

How come the governor is not willing to come to the area to meet with citizens and discuss the pros and cons of the wind tower project?

That suggests he thinks he’s only accountable to the people who agree with him.

How come the governor says the regulatory process has to play out but the same week the Public Service Board began hearings on the project he publicly proclaimed his support for the project and directed the Agency of Natural Resources to swap some land with the Canadian-owned Green Mountain Power Company to address some concerns raised by scientists at the agency?

That’s disingenuous.

How come citizens in Lowell’s neighboring towns don’t have as much right to meet face-to-face with the governor and share their views, as citizens in his home town of Putney and Brattleboro and Guilford have to meet with him about the Vermont Entergy nuclear power plant in Vernon?

How come the governor won’t come up here to talk with and listen to citizens?

What we have here is a failure to communicate.