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Turbines take center stage: Selectmen vote to shut them down for half a day

More than a month has gone by since Town Meeting passed two dueling articles, one to turn turbines off until November and another to allow selectmen to pursue an approach toward building consensus on what to do with the machines.

Since then selectmen have not discussed the turbines in public session, but that changed last night when they announced a plan to meet “abutters half-way,” in Chairman Mary (Pat) Flynn’s words. That plan calls for the two turbines at the Wastewater Treatment Facility to be turned off 12 hours a day, from 7 PM to 7 AM. They would remain operational the other 12 hours of the day.

The proposal was made at 9:15 PM, shortly after board members came out of their second executive session of the night, this one at the end of their public meeting with concluded at 8:35 PM.

Reading from a prepared statement, Ms. Flynn explained that the board’s decision last night was spurred by a “written, unilateral demand from six abutters” to have both turbines turned off as “a pre-condition to consensus building.”

That demand was made to selectmen the week after Town Meeting ended, at the start of a meeting facilitated by Stacie Smith of the Consensus Building Institute.

The next step, she said, will occur at the board’s meeting next Monday evening, when selectmen will vote to create a Falmouth Wind Turbine Options Analysis Committee. Members of that committee will comprise several constituency groups that include representatives of adversely impacted neighbors; supporters of renewable energy; taxpayers not impacted by the turbines, but concerned about Falmouth’s fiscal well-being; relevant town departments; and selectmen who will act as liaisons.

Details concerning the nomination and selection process for that committee will be made next week, following the board’s vote.

Selectmen’s action last night represents a stronger step than its vote prior to Town Meeting, in which it agreed to curtail the operation of Wind 1 through May 15, when wind speed reaches 10 meters per second. During that same time period, the board voted to operate Wind 2 with an increased “cut in speed” from 3.5 meters per second at 8 meters per second from the hours of midnight to 3 AM.

From May 15 to June 30, the board voted last month to shut down the turbines from 10 PM to 6 AM.

Although the board’s new temporary plan provides more relief to abutters, Todd A. Drummey and Terri L. Pentifallo-Drummey of Blacksmith Shop Road, were not sold on the idea.

“I’d like to see them off because, although it only affects me mostly at night, some of my neighbors can’t stand it during the day, so they won’t get any relief,” Ms. Drummey said this morning.

Mr. Drummey was pleased to see selectmen addressing the issue, but expressed concern that the board had waited so long after Town Meeting to do so. “I am surprised,” he said. “I would have hoped that right after Town Meeting they would have done something.”