FAIRHAVEN – Fire Chief Timothy Francis shut down a meeting of the Board of Health Monday night after the room where the meeting was being held was overcrowded by members of the anti-turbine group Windwise.
About 25 members of Windwise showed up at the board’s 6:30 p.m. meeting, which was held in a roughly 300-square-foot room behind the board’s Town Hall office. Only 15 Windwise members could fit in the room, with the rest crowding at the doorway to listen in.
The group had attended the meeting in order to hear the board’s response to questions submitted to them by Selectman Bob Espindola regarding the Planning Board’s latest draft of a bylaw that would regulate new turbine projects in town.
Upon arriving at the small venue, many Windwise members expressed anger that they appeared to be purposely excluded from the meeting.
Chief Francis, who arrived at the meeting 45 minutes after it began, said he had “received complaints at the station” about the room being overcrowded.
“It’s not posted how many people can be in that room but I know it’s overcrowded,” he said. “Twelve is too many for that room and there are more than 12 people in there.”
Chairman of the Board of Health Peter DeTerra said he “didn’t realize” so many people would be attending the meeting as only Espindola’s name was on the agenda. (Espindola was not in attendance Monday night as a Board of Selectmen’s meeting had been scheduled at the same time.)
It was not clear whether the meeting will be rescheduled. When asked by a reporter what was next, DeTerra said “I don’t know.”
Health Board member Barbara Acksen said she assumed Windwise would be at the meeting as the turbines were on the agenda and that DeTerra had refused to move to another room.
Before the meeting was broken up, Windwise members were in fierce confrontation with DeTerra and board member Jeannine Lopes, who refused to answer Espindola’s questions.
“I don’t think the board has the right to answer these questions because it is just a draft bylaw,” Lopes said, adding that the draft is now up for consideration by the selectmen. “There is protocol to follow.”
Lopes and DeTerra’s resistance angered members of Windwise, who accused the board of being “numb” to residents’ health concerns about the turbines.
“There is a health crisis in this town you are ignoring,” Dawn Devlin said.
John Methia agreed, saying “You’ve got a room full of people with headaches and sleep deprivation and frayed nerves that you’re ignoring.”
Following Methia’s comments, Windwise members began chanting “you fail” repeatedly to the board.
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