Seven candidates are competing to represent towns around the Lowell wind project on the Vermont Electric Cooperative Board of Directors.
At least one has openly opposed the Lowell wind project.
The vote by mail comes at the same time as co-op members from throughout Vermont will get a chance to vote on transmission line upgrades to serve the wind project and to improve reliability for VEC.
The ballots for the special election and for the transmission line vote go out by mail July 5.
VEC officials plan informational meetings in July about the special election, upgrade vote and other issues. Three information meetings will be held in Orleans and Essex counties.
The co-operative is the third largest utility in Vermont. It is a partner with Green Mountain Power in the Lowell wind project called Kingdom Community Wind.
State regulators granted a certificate of public good for 21 turbines, each 459 feet tall, on the Lowell ridge line. Appeals are under way while GMP seeks other state permits.
The special election in July is needed because former board member Priscilla Matten of Lowell, representing District 3 on the VEC board, stepped down earlier this year. Her resignation came too late for a replacement to be elected at the co-op’s annual meeting in May, forcing a special election.
The seven candidates to replace Matten are competing for the district seat that serves towns throughout western Orleans County, many which would be in the “view shed” of the Lowell wind project: Albany, Craftsbury, Glover, Greensboro, Irasburg, Jay, Lowell, Newport Town, Troy and Westfield.
The winning candidate would serve four years on the VEC board of directors.
The deadline for joining the race has closed, VEC spokeswoman Liz Gamache said Friday.
The candidates are:
â?¢ Larry Chase, a lister in Lowell who wants to help the board make “energy available to its members at the lowest cost consistent with sound economy and good management.”
â?¢ Amy Kelly of Newport Center, with a background in government labor and social services, said she was shocked at her first bill from VEC and wants “to help our community keep this essential bill under control.”
â?¢ Michael Ladd of Glover said his IT work at Weidmann Electrical Technologies in St. Johnsbury will help VEC with its smart grid technology.
â?¢ Dianne Laplante of Westfield, a real estate agent and part-time computer lab teacher, wants to hold down costs with an eye to the local energy future.
â?¢ Carol Maroni of Craftsbury, a registered nurse, is founder of the Craftsbury Community Care Center who has interest in renewable energy but opposes the Lowell wind project.
â?¢ Steve Merrill of North Troy, a semi-retired programmer, is on the board at NEK-TV and says Yankee know-how can make renewable energy more affordable and efficient.
â?¢ Joe Torter of Newport Center says his past in executive positions in business, including his own, will help keep VEC operating efficiently in cost and service.
Their complete announcements and photographs are online at the VEC website and will be included in the mailing of the election ballots to be sent out July 5.
Only VEC members in the District 3 towns will receive a ballot for the special election as part of the VEC mailing.
The ballot for members to approve the transmission upgrade for the power line that will run from Lowell through to Jay also will be in the mailing.
The VEC board wants to upgrade 16.9 miles of transmission lines along with substation upgrades in Lowell, Westfield, and Jay.
The work would improve lines that are 40 years old and nearing the end of their optimal life, VEC officials have said.
The upgrades would improve electrical reliability for the western part of Orleans County, including Jay Peak Resort, and provide a foundation for future economic growth in the region, officials said.
At the same time, the upgraded line and substations would allow VEC to conduct the electricity produced by the Lowell wind project.
The collaboration between VEC and GMP means that VEC members will not have to bear the full cost of replacing the transmission facilities, VEC officials said.
If VEC voters approve of the upgrades, GMP will pay 58 percent of the $12 million project.
Opponents to the Lowell wind project are asking VEC members to vote against the transmission line upgrades, online and in fliers that can be found around the region.
Also in July, VEC voters will be asked to approve of the new contract between VEC and Hydro-Quebec. And voters will also be asked to approve of some bylaw amendments.
Gamache said members should expect to see their mailed ballots any day after July 5.
VEC officials will hold public informational meetings throughout northern Vermont to talk about the proposed upgrades, HQ contract and other issues that are included in the special mail-in ballots.
The information meetings are all at 6:30 p.m.: July 6, VEC headquarters, Johnson; July 8, Mount Mansfield Union High School, Jericho; July 12, Brighton Town Hall; July 13, Richford High School; July 14, North Country Career Center, Newport City; July 18, Albany Community School.
Mailed ballots must be received at the VEC headquarters in Johnson by 10 a.m. July 25, Gamache said.
Otherwise, members can hand deliver their ballots to the VEC voting box July 26 at a special VEC meeting at the Johnson headquarters.
The special meeting opens at 6 p.m. and the ballot box closes at 6:30 p.m.
Results will be announced that evening, Gamache said.
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