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Lenox wind debate picks up

LENOX – The Selectmen have voiced strong support for Town Manager Gregory Federspiel’s objective handling of the often confrontational debate among opponents and supporters of the possible Lenox Mountain wind-turbine installation.

At a heated Nov. 5 Town Hall meeting held by the Wind Energy Research Panel following a site visit, Federspiel abruptly departed after panel member Christopher Magee, a leading opponent, accused him of a pro-wind bias.

“If I become the target, then I’m not doing my job properly,” Federspiel declared during the Select Board’s most recent meeting. “I don’t have a bias toward wind. I have a bias toward pursuing alternative energy. If we can make our progress without wind, I’m happy to do that. If it turns out that wind is something that the townspeople want, I’m OK with that too.”

“As a professional, I work very hard at providing information,” he continued, “and yes, I advanced the wind project to the stage that it’s at because that was a directive that you as a board gave me. I should be a resource for all people, and I hope you agree that I do that fairly well. If I don’t, I hope you tell me.”

“There are significant impacts from wind,” the town manager acknowledged, “and we need to take a hard look at them.” He also advocated exploring solar and other options “from an ecological point of view.

“My goal is making sure we understand the
positives and negatives,” he said.

Selectman Kenneth Fowler commended Federspiel for “doing a better than fair job.”

“If the conversations get too robust by appointed people on the committees, I think that it’s our job to remove them,” added board member Dia Trancynger. “Everybody has to have a civil manner in which they conduct themselves in this town. Nobody should be a target. It’s getting hard to tolerate.”

“People are passionate, and that’s a good thing,” Federspiel chimed in.

Fowler said since the wind panel has three in favor and three against, “there was bound to be some friction, but aiming it at Greg and some other people might not have been appropriate, it was recognized afterwards, and some apology was made. It was just part of the process.”

“I don’t think it’s fair that he was personally attacked,” said Selectman David Roche. “He is our source of information, and he is our staff, and I back him up 100 percent.”

Outlining the panel’s progress during its first three meetings, Fowler, the moderator for the group, listed the key issues as economics – “does it pay to have turbines on Lenox Mountain?” – and the impact on the mountain caused by land-clearing, blasting, road access and maintenance, turbine integrity relating to potential damage or failure, and health issues, including acoustical studies, as well as aesthetic concerns.

Fowler said he believed the panel is on track to meet an informal Jan. 15 deadline to report back to the Select Board – “not a recommendation, this is all about talking to the public,” said Select Board Chairman John McNinch. “This is about educating the board, not swaying one person to go the other way because we have a 3-3 panel. This is about getting as much information for this board so we can make an educated decision and have forums with the public.”

Both Fowler and wind-panel alternate member Jo Anne Magee, addressing the Selectmen, praised the “cautionary, objective, fair and balanced” presentation to the panel on Nov. 10 by Dan Ingold, the senior technical director for Weston Solutions, Inc., the alternative-energy firm that studied the Lenox Mountain site and pronounced it “viable” for one or two municipal turbines.

Earlier, in response to a query from a local resident about recent executive sessions held by the Selectmen, Federspiel listed discussions on contract negotiations and on potential lawsuits against the town.

“That was a legitimate use of the executive-session process,” he explained.

Private sessions are also sanctioned by the open meeting law for personnel matters.