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Rumford wind ordinance defeated

RUMFORD – It’s official and apparently back to the drawing board for selectmen.

The proposed wind ordinance was defeated by a tally of 696-582, Town Manager Carlo Puiia said shortly before midnight on Tuesday.

“The people came out and voted and we always have to respect how the legislative body speaks,” he said.

“So the board has to respect those numbers and go from there.”

He said he believes the issue will be discussed further at a future meeting, but when that will be scheduled isn’t yet clear.

“Somebody could consider that it is of an urgent nature,” Puiia said.

“However, based on the moratorium, which is good through July, it probably will wait for another agenda.”

“And I think the new board will agree to that, that they may not be prepared to broach that subject,” he said.

“So, possibly this will give all the board members ample time to weigh in and maybe consider what that next step will be, if there is a next step.”

Additionally, he said town officials will now have to wait to hear from Boston-based wind developer First Wind if Tuesday’s defeat kills their interest in still pursuing a $65 million wind farm on Rumford hills.

The current moratorium on wind projects expires on July 25.

The first proposed ordinance, largely believed to be a permanent moratorium on wind farms, was defeated at the Nov. 2 polls by a tally of 1,339 to 1,048.

Selectmen started work on a second proposal, and then dumped that in favor of Selectman Jeff Sterling’s rewrite in late April of the defeated ordinance.

The board then held a rare Sunday workshop last month and went through nearly every page of Sterling’s 26-page draft.

At a subsequent meeting, the board then voted everything in, mostly by 3-2 tallies with Sterling, Adley and Selectman Mark Belanger approving and Selectmen Greg Buccina and Jeremy Volkernick dissenting.

The proposal was expedited onto the June town meeting warrant rather than wait for a special town meeting or November ballot attempt.

Authors of the first proposal and Buccina and Volkernick claimed the new ordinance caters to wind developers and wouldn’t protect the town.

They asked voters not to accept it, saying it needs to be reworked.

The new proposal’s backers said otherwise, that it allows and regulates such development, and is more stringent than that of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Whether they had any effect on the outcome or not, there was no shortage of people or signs all day Tuesday telling residents how to vote on the proposed wind ordinance.

Throughout balloting hours between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., people on both sides of the issue held signs urging Yes or No votes.

They stood on both sides of Memorial Bridge and at the lower end of Canal Street and Route 108 trying to catch the attention of voters headed to the polls at the American Legion hall on upper Congress Street.

Dixfield resident Alice Barnett brought several of her large paintings depicting area landscapes marked with many stark white wind turbines and lined the panels along the bridge where she stood holding Vote No signs.

Wind ordinance supporters J. Arthur Boivin and Kay Rand of Rumford and a few others held Vote Yes signs for most of the day.

A red van strategically parked along the Route 2 rotary and a pickup truck parked on lower Canal Street sported large handwritten signs urging No votes.

Additionally, evidence remained throughout town of last week’s rampant vandalism of First Wind’s Vote Yes signs.

Using red paint, the vandal or vandals spraypainted a large NO over the YES on several of the blue and white signs sometime during the night of June 7 or early morning of June 8.

That happened the day after someone stole 50 of the signs, Boivin said.

That’s why he said he waited until early Tuesday morning to place many more signs along Rumford roads so they, too, wouldn’t be stolen or vandalized.