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Some Windwise proposals withdrawn from Fairhaven town meeting

FAIRHAVEN – Members of Windwise have withdrawn a Town Meeting article that if passed would have shut down the town’s wind turbines indefinitely.

Ken Pottel of Windwise said the article was originally submitted for Saturday’s Town Meeting out of concern the turbines would cause health problems for neighbors. However, Windwise decided to withdraw the article because “the turbines aren’t really running at full capacity yet.

“We thought they would have been running for longer by now,” Pottel said. “We wanted to push that article in case there were problems, but the wind hasn’t been so strong and they’ve only been on a few days.”

Withdrawing the article now, however, does not mean Windwise is not concerned about the turbine’s health effects, he said.

“If we see our fellow citizens getting sick, we will get the 300 signatures needed to hold a special Town Meeting to address it,” Pottel said.

Windwise still has two articles on the agenda, including one to place a moratorium on future wind projects until health effects of the turbines are more thoroughly studied.

In a letter to Executive Secretary Jeffrey Osuch, Town Counsel Thomas Crotty wrote that the moratorium article would be unenforceable and that it falls under the jurisdiction of the Planning Board.

Pottel said the group “feels it is important for the Town Meeting to make a statement” and will not withdraw the measure.

“It sends a message to the Planning Board to take a look at this,” he said.

Osuch said the article is not being recommended by selectmen.

“There is a process you have to go through and this is not it,” he said.

At Saturday’s Town Meeting, which gets under way at 9 a.m. at the Hastings Middle School, members will consider a $49 million budget and a 53-article warrant.

Discussion is also likely on the education budget. Although the budget has been increased by $230,000 for the coming fiscal year, the School Committee said in mid-April that up to eight layoffs and educational programs could be cut if additional funding isn’t provided.

“The increase is not enough to cover the increasing amount of expenses we have,” Superintendent Dr. Robert Baldwin said. “It costs money just to get teachers to walk in the door.”

Osuch said the School Department is “getting the largest increase of any department budget. It may not be to the degree they want it to be, but they are getting an increase. Anything more would have to come from another department.”

Windwise also withdrew articles aimed at making town officials more accountable, for example, by imposing term limits. Those articles were withdrawn after Crotty wrote another letter that said that the meeting did not have the authority to enforce such measures.