KINGSTON – In a sort of Catch-22, wind turbine developer Mary O’Donnell is seeking help from the Board of Selectmen so that she can get paid for producing wind energy from her three Marion Drive turbines, per agreement with the town.
But town counsel recommends that the Board of Selectmen hold off on making a decision on awarding her the credits in the form of kilowatt hours that she needs to fulfill her obligations without a formal agreement in place to protect the town’s interests.
Selectmen agreed to hold a special meeting once an agreement is reached. The meeting may be scheduled with 48 hours’ notice.
O’Donnell must have a municipal client for NStar to pay her for the power generated by her turbines. NStar won’t pay her because power is not being sold to a municipal entity. Not enough net metering credits or kilowatt hours have been allocated for O’Donnell to get paid.
Town Counsel Jay Talerman said he is hesitant for the town to use up all its credits by extending them to O’Donnell without an agreement in place due to the financial ramifications. He said colleagues from his office are working on this daily but are not ready to make a recommendation to selectmen on what to do with any available credits. He urged selectmen not to act.
“There’s only so much we can do,” he said. “We’re not going to shoot ourselves in the foot to accommodate a private interest. Our interest in our turbine is of primary concern for you as Board of Selectmen.”
O’Donnell’s dismissed his advice. She said it should be a simple matter to agreeing to terms on what should be a simple agreement. O’Donnell said she and the town are in business together. She wants to start paying the town, she said, and she wants to get paid.
“It’s your decision,” she said, asking selectmen to take action Tuesday night. “It’s not his decision. You’re the town mothers and fathers. If you think this is an appropriate thing for you to do for me to complete this business transaction, I call upon you to please do it.”
Negotiations include a decision on whether kilowatt hours allocated for the Sewer Department could be made available to O’Donnell. Town Administrator Jim Thomas said Talerman’s colleague has suggested the possibility of allocating 500,000 kilowatt hours to O’Donnell although it isn’t all she needs to get reimbursed by NStar.
Thomas agreed with O’Donnell that she and the town are partners and each wants the other to be successful, but town officials are obligated to protect the town’s interests.
Sewer Commissioner Elaine Fiore is part of those negotiations and confirmed that the commission is open to allocating 500,000 of its 1.5 million kilowatt hours in available capacity to O’Donnell. If the town needs those kilowatt hours in the future for its wind turbine and solar panel project, an agreement with the Sewer Commission and the town would return those hours to the town.
This matter needs to be resolved soon, Selectman Ron Gleason said, with a plan in place to get O’Donnell the credits she needs to get paid. He said it’s taken too long.
“She’s been waiting and waiting and waiting, and we’ve had these discussions back and forth – it’s been settled; it’s not been settled,” he said.
Selectmen Chairman Joe Casna said board members have a desire to expedite the process based on the discussion and made that clear to town counsel.
While not given a specific time frame for an agreement to be finalized, selectmen say they are willing to hold a special meeting with the required posted 48 hours’ notice.