BUZZARDS BAY —
Town Clerk Barry Johnson is taking direct issue with the Cape Cod Commission decision to hold a public hearing into New Generation Wind turbine plans for Buzzards Bay during the 2011 town election.
Johnson early last Tuesday thought the 5:30 p.m. turbine hearing set at Bourne High School would adversely impact voting at a time when many townspeople arrive home from work and head to the polls.
The overall turnout proved dismal, but there were perhaps 20 Bourne people at the commission hearing into turbine plans off Scenic Highway and Route 25 who would be considered voters.
Johnson during the afternoon of the Tuesday balloting sent a message to commission executive director Paul Niedzwiecki, asking that the agency at least make an effort to determine beforehand if any public hearings scheduled in town would interfere with municipal events.
“Why would they schedule a hearing on election day?” Johnson said. “They didn’t even check; not that they have to. I understand they have time constraints in which they have to act on proposals; I understand that.
“Their hearing and our election are both important,” Johnson said. “But why not pick another day? Why not call and ask? I’d prefer not to have important matters detract from each other. My office has also heard complaints about why their hearings have to be scheduled so early; most people can’t get home from work and get to them.”
Niedzwiecki, however, said his regulatory staff checked with Johnson’s office in April about the May turbine hearing date and no issues were raised by Johnson.
“Had he done so, we would not have scheduled that date,” Niedzwiecki said. “It may be also important to note that we are required by the CCC Act to publish notice for our hearings essentially 17 days in advance of the hearing; which answers the ‘why do we schedule so early?’ question.”
Niedzwiecki said a 5:30 hearing start gives “everyone interested in testifying” ample time and opportunity to appear and speak, given the 8:30 p.m. cut-off time.
The public hearing into New Generation Wind’s proposal prompted a turnout of about 40 people. That included commission staffers, New Generation consultants, town officials and both wind-farm enthusiasts and opponents. But there seemed to be more non-voters in the high school auditorium than Bourne voters.
Commission member Peter Graham of Truro, chairing subcommittee review of the wind-farm proposal, originally figured the hearing would last four hours. It started at 5:30 p.m. and was mostly over by 8, the same time the Bourne balloting ended.
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