Bowcock defends wind turbines, attacks opponent over digester Says people will accept turbines over time
FAIRHAVEN – Selectman Brian K. Bowcock talked at length about the problems with the digester, leveling harsh criticisms at his opponent, Geoffrey Haworth, of the Board of Public Works at a candidates forum March 6 at the Council on Aging.
Mr. Haworth didn’t turn the tables and criticize Mr. Bowcock over the two industrial wind turbines on town land, which have generated complaints from more than 50 households, but the two issues are at the fore in two of the contests in April 1’s election, the selectmen’s race and Board of Health. His response to Mr. Bowcock’s criticisms is included in a separate article.
On the controversy over the wind turbines, Mr. Bowcock compared it to the initial complaints about the bike path. He called the bike path a “controversial issue” that generated a lawsuit by residents who claimed it would lower home values.
“Does this sound familiar?” he asked. He said, “All the fears that were raised” by the bike path were alleviated over time.
Mr. Bowcock said he reads the complaints about the wind turbines “daily” and communicates with Laurel Carlson of the state Department of Environmental Protection about her sound study.
He said the results “to date” show no violations of the 10 decibel threshold for how much noise the turbines can add to existing levels.
Mr. Bowcock said if the turbines are not in compliance, “I will be the first one to make the motion that they be shut down until they are in compliance.”
On other issues, Mr. Bowcock, who served for many years on the Finance Committee, said he’s helped keep the town’s bond rating the highest of any South Coast community. He also talked about the Department of Revenue study of town government as an important initiative. The DOR study was brought about at the suggestion of Selectman Robert Espindola.
Mr. Bowcock praised other environmental initiatives the selectmen have been involved in, like the solar project on the landfill and the conversion of street lights to LED.
By comparison, he criticized Mr. Haworth’s handling of the anaerobic digester at the Department of Public Works and said selectmen were called upon frequently to deal with it.
“Talk about a financial disaster,” he said.
Mr. Bowcock said he learned in a meeting with engineers Brown & Caldwell that the digester “design was flawed and the digester has a tendency to blow up.” He called it a serious situation to have a digester that could blow up, pointing out that it is “near the bike path.”
The anaerobic digester was obtained with about $7 million in federal stimulus grant money. DPW Superintendent Vincent Furtado was not involved in obtaining the grant, but since being hired, he has had to deal with its design flaws.
Mr. Bowcock said when he asked Mr. Furtado what could be done to keep the digester from blowing up, Mr. Furtado said they would have to put a steel superstructure on top of it.
Mr. Bowcock said voters should ask Mr. Haworth, “How can we fix this disaster and how are we going to pay for it?” He said, “Unless we can get it to work we will be left with a $10 million loan we can’t afford to pay back.”
He also faulted the BPW for almost losing state money for the Alden Road intersection with Bridge Street and what he called the “fiasco” of the resurfacing of Howland Road. Mr. Bowcock said the state is charging the town $600,000 for cost overruns related to engineering work on Howland Road, taking the Chapter 90 funds for road work that would have gone to Fairhaven over three years.
Mr. Bowcock characterized Mr. Haworth as someone who runs the concession stand at Little League games and should be criticized for “financial mismanagement” of BPW projects. By comparison, Mr. Bowcock said he has overseen “multimillion dollar projects” like the new Wood School and a town with a $50 million budget.
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