FALMOUTH – Town meeting members tried Wednesday night to tackle possible restrictions on operation of the two municipal wind turbines, but a busy evening pushed the discussion to a fourth night.
On the third night of town meeting, Article 23, an initiative to keep Wind 1 and Wind 2 shut off until November’s town meeting, came to the floor at about 10 p.m.
“The turbine destroys our quality of life,” said member Kathryn Elder, who lives on Blacksmith Shop Road near Wind 1. “(The turbine) drives us from the haven of our homes.”
Speaking on the selectmen’s recommendation to postpone the article indefinitely, Mary Pat Flynn, chairwoman of the board, said that mitigation options are under way.
When the Wind 1 turbine was operational, some abutters complained the 1.65-megawatt turbine, located at the town’s wastewater treatment plant, caused health problems, such as migraines and vertigo. Wind 2 is also at the wastewater treatment plant, but farther from Blacksmith Shop Road.
Advocates against the turbines struck a deal with selectmen last November, when the board agreed to shut down Wind 1 and temporarily operate Wind 2 during a testing phase.
A statement of principles accepted by selectmen on Monday said the board intends on mitigating abutters’ concerns with actions including operating Wind 1 at 10 meters per second from April 17 to May 15. From May 15 to June 15, they would shut off both turbines between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Turbine opponent David Moriarty posited that the town was duped by engineers and contractors, because of a lack of warnings about the noise and infrasound – deep bass sounds typically inaudible to the human ear – that turbines create.
“We were hoodwinked by the professionals,” Moriarty said. “It was never going to work. It was done for profit.”
Giving a presentation in favor of the turbines, Hatchville resident Joe Hackler questioned data that Todd Drummy presented earlier in the meeting that showed charts of turbines creating higher decibel levels than the 40-decibel town limit.
“We don’t live in a town where most of us hear anything less than 40 decibels with curtailed operation,” Hackler said. “My understanding of the wind opponents is they just want them gone.”
The meeting adjourned at 11 p.m. without a vote on the article.
Earlier in the night, the $40.8 million school budget passed as approved by the finance committee.
Members also voted in favor of allowing Town Manager Julian Suso to create a finance department that will oversee the treasurer, collector, accountant, chief purchasing officer and assessing department. The new department will consist of a finance director, whose annual salary will likely amount to about $100,000, and a part-time assistant, who will likely earn about $15,000 per year.
Several town meeting members argued against the new department, with concerns of possibly limiting the independence of the finance committee. They also mentioned that some of the responsibilities of the new position fall under the purview of the town manager.
Suso told members that having fewer people directly reporting to him would increase efficiency, something many towns on Cape Cod have already realized.
“Over half of the municipalities on the Cape already have a finance department,” Suso said. “Can we function without it? Yes, we can. Is this the right time for this? In my humble opinion, it is.”
The new posts will be paid with salaries from vacant town jobs, Suso said.
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