LORDSTOWN – In a Don Quixote-like effort to ensure the safety of any electrician who may work on the twin wind turbines outside the village administration building, Councilman Stanley Zoldan is finding himself in trouble with the administration and possibly the law.
Zoldan said the village did not have the final electrical inspection for the windmills before it was placed in operation last month. So he turned it off.
Now he’s facing disciplinary action for attacking windmills.
Zoldan was elected to his most recent term on council in 2009 and previously served on council for eight years from 1988 to 1996.
On Tuesday, a day after a City Council meeting in which its members decided to wait on paying the $43,900 owed to Wind Turbines of Ohio for the $131,000 windmill project, Zoldan asked a village employee, Dale Grimm, to turn off power to the windmills
Grimm initially attempted to contact the Trumbull County inspectors to obtain their opinion about whether allowing the windmills to remain on was safe. Failing to reach county officials, Grimm attempted to contact Mayor Michael Chaffee asking for his advice. Chaffee responded in an e-mail telling Grimm not to cut off the power, but to continue trying to contact county inspectors.
Frustrated, Zoldan decided to cut the power himself.
“I firmly feel that if a tragedy occurs and someone is electrocuted by a line from the windmills, the village council could be held liable and we could face manslaughter charges because, as of April 4, we knew it had not been inspected,” Zoldan said.
Later Tuesday afternoon, the power to the towers was turned back on.
“Councilman Zoldan has overstepped his bounds,” Chaffee said. “He is a legislator. He does not have the authority to order a village employee to do anything. This was a foolish stunt. I expect that there will be some disciplinary actions taken.
“(Also), on the advice of our legal counsel, I asked for a police investigation on this incident,” Chaffee said.
Lordstown Deputy Ronald Reed said the village is seeking information about the incident in case something on the windmills were damaged when the power was turned off..
Chaffee said he asked his department head whether it was safe to operate the mills prior to the final inspection and was told it was okay.
“We have department heads that are experts at what they do,” Chaffee said. “When I have a question, I go to my department head for recommendations.”
Chaffee said the final electrical inspection was scheduled on two occasions but the inspections were postponed.
Councilman John McCarthy does not believe Zoldan should have cut off the power to the wind turbines.
“I not saying it happened in this case, but I know that sometimes there may be consequences when you cut off electrical power to devices,” he said. “I believe when you don’t have the technical knowledge about doing something, you should not do it.”
Councilman Arno Hill said he is siding with Zoldan in this case.
“If the power goes out and there is a backfeed through those lines, we will be responsible,” Hill said. “We should wait until the electrical inspection is complete.”
Hill said the council decided not to pay the final $43,900 because they had yet to confirm that all the people working on the project were paid at prevailing wage levels and because the final electrical inspections had not been completed.
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