FAIRHAVEN – School Committee members said last week that any decisions about the wind turbines being built in Fairhaven should be made at the special Town Meeting on Feb. 15.
“It’s been an emotional issue for many and we’ve appreciated your passion,” Chairman Pamela Kuechler said of the Windwise members who attended previous School Committee meetings.
She added, “It’s moving to a special Town Meeting, as it should be.”
The School Committee members spoke about the turbines on Jan. 25, which was the evening after the town’s wind forum on Jan. 24. They have also been reviewing material on wind turbines on their own.
School Committee members have been pressured by Windwise, which opposes the turbines, to take a stand because the turbines will be about 2,000 feet from the Wood School. The Wood School has been selected as the site of a new elementary school, combining the Wood and Rogers schools.
School Committee member Brian Monroe said he called the school superintendent in Templeton where there is a turbine on school grounds. He said “she has no issues at all” with the turbines there.
The turbine in Templeton is 1.65 megawatts. The two being built on town land off Arsene Street in Fairhaven are 1.5 megawatts each.
Mr. Monroe said he asked if the turbine in Templeton was affecting special education, deaf, autistic or everyday students and was told it does not. Instead, he said, it was described by the superintendent in Templeton as a “wonderful addition” and a positive educational experience.
Vice Chairman Louis Kruger said, “This is a community issue that is best decided by the community.”
Mr. Kruger said he wasn’t concerned about whether the turbines should be installed in Fairhaven, but was concerned about the choice of location. “Does everyone in town feel that it’s appropriate for them to be there?” he asked.
Mr. Kruger said, “Anecdotally, Windwise makes a good case,” but he said the science seems to show that wind turbines are safe.
Mr. Kruger went on to criticize the way the Board of Selectmen handled the wind turbines, however. The turbines were approved at Town Meeting in 2007, but were off the radar in recent years after CCI Energy pulled its request for a special permit. The selectmen resurrected the project after the Green Communities Act was passed, which allowed for less stringent zoning restrictions on town-owned land.
The question he has, Mr. Kruger said, is “how they disappeared” and then came back “and now we’re going to have turbines again,” without the public being aware of it.
Yet Fairhaven is a small town, Mr. Kruger said, and usually news travels fast.
“I think that’s the bigger issue,” he said. “I think we deserve better than that…I certainly have no safety issues, but there are moral issues here. Was this project done the right way?”
David Gonsalves also said he wasn’t concerned about the safety of the turbines, but did question the way selectmen handled the process. He said he’s “seen e-mails” that concern him.
Windwise obtained the Board of Selectmen’s and executive secretary’s e-mails through the Freedom of Information Act. One refers to keeping the project low key and out of the public radar.
The selectmen generally met in executive session to discuss the contract with CCI Energy, which is one of the investors in what is a multi-million dollar project. The wind turbine project in Fairhaven now is being built by Fairhaven Wind LLC, which has three developers or investors.
Ten residents have been trying to stop the turbines in court. They, and Windwise, say they were caught off guard when the ground was cleared for the turbines last November.
At the School Committee meeting last week, Mr. Gonsalves said, “The way it was done,” including the changing of the lots they’re to be built on, “gave me pause.” He said he had “serious concerns” about the way selectmen handled it.
Mr. Gonsalves said the Board of Selectmen’s meetings that he saw (on cable access government TV), with residents expressing opposition, “never should have happened.”
Stasia Powers said she has “seen no evidence” to worry her about the distance the turbines are from Wood School. She said the turbines’ fate should now be left to Town Meeting members and that the School Committee should “move forward” with “other school business.”
Several School Committee members said they were surprised that no one from Windwise attended their meeting last week considering that the turbines were on the School Committee agenda.
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