BREWSTER – Selectmen gave a loud thumb’s down to a plan to create an elected, rather than selectman appointed, representative to the Cape Light Compact and Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative.
The new position of Brewster Energy Advocate would have a myriad of responsibilities and be elected next May if the citizen’s petition put forth by Chris Powicki is approved at fall town meeting Nov. 7.
Powicki, who has been in the energy business for 20 years, believes the current job is skewed towards municipal energy issues, since appointee John Cunningham answers to the selectmen. An elected rep would represent everyone.
“The system of appointing each town representative (to the agencies) leads to a loss of opportunities for public involvement,” Powicki argued. “Municipalities get the advantage. There is (currently) an inquiry at the county level into the transparency of the two organizations.”
CVEC, a 17-member cooperative to which Brewster belongs, would lease land and own the twin wind turbines off Freeman’s Way, if they were built as well as lease land for solar arrays at the recycling station and perhaps in Commerce Park. Cape Light Compact was formed by the county in 1997 to look out for consumers as the electric industry reorganized. They package and sell power to Cape residents and offer help on lowering energy consumption and cost.
Powicki noted residents purchase 74 percent of the electricity on Cape Cod while municipalities account for only 4 percent. Yet CVEC has focused on municipal turbines and rooftop solar arrays such as those on the two Brewster elementary schools.
“There is a mismatch between accountability and responsibility,” he said. “The board of selectmen is concerned about municipal electric bills. A Brewster energy advocate would be responsible for representing all consumers. He would be responsible for helping consumers save money and promoting CLC programs. He would hold public hearings whenever the CLC electric rate changes.”
“The board (of selectmen) is elected by the townspeople. If we appoint someone to the CLC their role is to represent businesses and residents,” selectman Dan Rabold said.
The article outlines the volunteer position in detail.
“The job seems more like an added department to the town rather than a part-time volunteer post,” observed Selectman John Dickson. “I don’t feel it’s practical to expect one official to accomplish that unless it is their (full-time) job.”
In addition to attending CVEC and Cape Light Compact meetings in Barnstable the advocate would report to the selectmen, town administrator, energy committee and others in a bimonthly basis, support outreach programs in Brewster schools, the library and council on aging, serve on the town energy committee, represent the public at contract negotiations, permitting and regulatory processes both in and out of town, consult with all the aforementioned “as issues arise” regarding private developers, and local, regional, state and federal entities, solicit public input on these issues and be the prime point of contact for any concerns involving CVEC or the CLC and hold at least three (probably more) public hearings a year.
Powicki said he, for one, would be interested in such a role.
“The inter-municipal agreement for the CLC states that representatives are appointed by the board of selectmen,” Selectman Ed Lewis said.
Powicki said the article would be revised so the selectmen were required to appoint the winner of the election.
“I’m concerned elected then appointed is not legal,” Lewis replied. ”That has to be checked with legal counsel.”
The board put the revised article on the warrant but voted unanimously against supporting it at the town meeting.