With selectmen preparing to throw their support behind the ballot question asking voters if they support the estimated $14 million cost of removing Wind 1 and Wind 2, a concern was raised at their meeting last week that the Falmouth Energy Committee could be actively working against them.
Selectman Brent V.W. Putnam posed the question at the end of their session as Chairman Kevin E. Murphy talked about the board writing and submitting an op-ed piece endorsing this ballot question as well as a $9 million request to move Falmouth’s water and wastewater efforts forward. “We know that [energy committee chairman] Megan Amsler wrote a letter to the state and the energy committee ex post facto endorsed the letter,” Mr. Putnam said. “Do we have the energy committee working against board policy here?” He said there may be cause for the board to take action if indeed the energy committee voted to support Ms. Amsler’s letter, which she sent in March to Richard K. Sullivan Jr., the state’s executive secretary of energy and the environment, asking that the state not provide financial aid for removing the turbines.
Selectman Mary (Pat) Flynn argued that selectmen never formed an actual policy regarding the turbines to which Mr. Putnam disagreed. “If we make a vote we are essentially making policy,” he said. And Mr. Murphy said it was unclear whether the energy committee had taken any formal action on the letter.
On Thursday Ms. Amsler said the energy committee has never placed her letter on the agenda nor has it been voted on. “It was written by me as an individual and it happened to include my title as chair of the Falmouth Energy Committee as one of five credentials I listed under my name,” she said. “If the energy committee had written a letter, it would have been clear on the heading of the letter and it would have been signed by all of us, but it wasn’t.”
This is now the second time selectmen have discussed Ms. Amsler’s letter, with the first occurring at the end of March prior to Town Meeting. At that time selectmen were highly critical of the letter, saying it disregarded their decision in February to remove the turbines and seek financial assistance from the state. The next day at the Falmouth Energy Committee’s meeting Ms. Amsler’s colleague Robert W. Boettger said he supported her letter and so did the other members, though there was no actual vote on the matter.
While selectmen were outspoken about Ms. Amsler’s letter during that first discussion last week, only Mr. Putnam still had concerns it violated the board’s policy. In a phone interview following the selectmen’s meeting Mr. Putnam said he would not have been so upset if Ms. Amsler did not list her title as energy chair immediately below her signature. “Right off the bat you have the chair contradicting the board,” Mr. Putnam said. “I understand Pat suggested the board didn’t really make a policy, but you could split hairs one way or the other. The board ultimately did make a vote to take down the turbines and here you have the chair of the energy committee saying, ‘don’t do it.’” He said Ms. Amsler’s letter sent a mixed message to the public as well as the state, noting that the decision to take down the turbines was supported by selectmen and the finance committee and “it fell a few votes short at Town Meeting, but a clear majority still supports this.” And Town Meeting’s support of the new wind turbine bylaw, he said, is an endorsement that the two town-owned turbines at the Wastewater Treatment Facility were far too large for that site. “There’s been a consistent message here sent by all the major boards in the town and here you have the energy committee chairman contradicting it,” he said.
Ms. Amsler maintained she did nothing wrong and that as an individual she had the right to send the letter to Mr. Sullivan. And she was surprised that the board would continue to focus on it as an issue even after she sent selectmen a copy of the letter and that she had written it on her own volition and not on behalf of the energy committee.