On March 10, 2008, the Portsmouth Town Council voted 5-2 to approve the expenditure of $3 million to purchase and install a wind turbine at the High School. As of today, the wind turbine, standing over 300 feet in height, is idle because of a faulty gear box. The manufacturer is out of business and there is no warranty to cover it.
Unfortunately this is merely the most recent mechanical/electrical failure for a project that was intended to off-set energy costs for the town. Instead, the wind turbine has presented the current Town Council, and ultimately the taxpayers, with a dilemma with no apparent solution.
At this point, it is virtually inconceivable that any course taken by the Council will eliminate the loss of revenue or the debt burden facing the taxpayers of Portsmouth over the 20-year lifespan of the wind turbine. There is approximately $2.3m bond still outstanding.
While the motivation of the wind turbine project is worthy, it is also valid to question the advisability of a small town like Portsmouth risking $3 million in a venture with which they have no experience. Perhaps it would have been better to contract the venture to a private company or maybe invest the funds in our capital improvement program to maintain existing infrastructure such as roads, demolition of Elmhurst School, and repairs to the Glen mansion.
A review of the minutes of the council meeting held during the evening in March 2008 reveals two of the members who supported this golden albatross are running for positions in the council in November. Leonard Katzman is again running for a seat on the council and James Seveney is seeking re-election.
Because of the onerous problem facing the Town of Portsmouth regarding the wind turbine, it is ironic that, if elected, these two gentlemen will be faced with developing and implementing an acceptable solution to a problem that they helped create.
Irrespective of your position on this issue please take the time to vote on November 6. Your vote counts.
Michael L. Soares
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