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Falmouth voters get chance to decide fate of turbines

FALMOUTH – State officials will not cut Falmouth any financial breaks to remove two town-owned turbines.

An article on Tuesday’s special town meeting warrant asks town meeting to approve borrowing nearly $14 million to fund the removal of the Wind 1 and Wind 2 turbines at the town’s wastewater treatment facility. It would also seek special legislation that would enable the town to borrow the money to pay for removing them.

In February, town officials met with state officials to ask if state agencies would forgive nearly $6 million in debt the town would incur if the turbines were removed.

But the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center will not forgive at least $1 million in renewable energy credits it prepaid to the town if the Wind 1 turbine is removed, according to an April 3 letter from the center to Falmouth Town Manager Julian Suso.

And a separate April 4 letter from the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust to the town said if Wind 2 stops operating, Falmouth would be required to pay back a nearly $5 million stimulus grant the town received to erect it.

“I feel these letters, almost that they’re punitive,” Selectman David Braga said Friday. “They didn’t come through for us.”

At a meeting Thursday night, selectmen unanimously approved the article to borrow the money to remove the turbines.

“We got the message from the state and we’re moving forward,” said Selectman Kevin Murphy, chairman of the board.

Even if town meeting votes against the article, selectmen will offer a ballot question asking voters if they want the turbines removed, Selectman Mary Pat Flynn said. The question would likely appear on the May 21 ballot. “Everyone wants to vote on this, not just town meeting,” Flynn said.

Malcolm Donald, a turbine abutter and outspoken opponent of Falmouth’s turbines, said he is disappointed in the state.

Experts enlisted by the Clean Energy Center bear a large responsibility in siting the turbines, he said.

“If Wind 1 were an automobile, would not the lemon law come into play?” Donald asked.