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Portsmouth council to hear wind turbine update Monday

PORTSMOUTH – The Town Council will get an update on the town’s broken wind turbine from Town Planner Gary Crosby Monday night. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

In 2007 voters approved a $3 million bond issue for the turbine, which sits behind the tennis courts at the high school. It’s been idle since June 2012 due to a broken gear box. The town has been weighing its options ever since.

In December the town received four responses for its request for proposals (RFP), “two of which were deemed worthy of further negotiations,” Mr. Crosby wrote in May 7 letter to the council. The town worked with both finalists into January to refine the details and to get the contract language as soon as possible, he wrote.

In February the town decided to focus more intensely on one of the proposals, but in early March “negotiations broke down as the respondent could not make good on the details of his earlier proposal,” Mr. Crosby said, adding that the town the shifted back to the other proposal that had been set aside.

“As of last week, these negotiations broke down as well, again due to the respondent not being able to make good on details of his earlier proposal,” he wrote.

Mr. Crosby went on to say that the town has received “some interest from parties that did not respond to the RFP but would be interested in responding in the future.”

The town’s next loan payment on the turbine is not due until December, so the town has “some time to leave the RFP out on the street a bit longer than last time,” Mr. Crosby said.

He requested the council’s “guidance on whether to put the RFP back out and begin the process anew.”

At a council meeting in February, Mr. Crosby discussed the different options available to the town. One was to have the town pay for the repairs to the gearbox and resume operation and ownership of the turbine, which would cost anywhere from $580,000 to $730,000. The town would continue to sell power to National Grid.

Also under this scenario, the town would enter into an operations and maintenance contract with a third-party service provider that would handle minor repairs and monitor the turbine. In addition, an insurance policy paid for by the town would cover any future problems with the turbine, he said.

Another option was for a developer to take down and replace the turbine at no charge, then lease the property from the town to cover the debt on the original turbine – about $2.3 million. This contractor would also enter into an agreement to sell power to National Grid.

Yet a third option was to remove the turbine and sell it for scrap metal.

Tax on marijuana sales

Also Monday night, council member David Gleason will request a discussion about the potential taxing of marijuana sales at the soon-to-be-opened Greenleaf Compassion Center on West Main Road.

“After a discussion with a member of the public and after speaking briefly with Ray Davis (coordinator of the Portsmouth Prevention Coalition), I am asking for the council to consider the potential of revenues generated by sales at the Compassion Center,” Mr. Gleason wrote in a May 6 letter to the council.

“I understand that this currently takes place in (California) and (Colorado) and that the funds could be used for prevention programs, additional funding for enforcement, general fund, etc.,” Mr. Gleason wrote. “I would like to see if there is support for the solicitor to investigate the legal ramifications and report back to the council.”

Action against Beach House?

The council will also consider a request from the police chief regarding a possible action against the Beach House bar in Island Park.

Following the arrests of 17 students for underage drinking at the Island Park nightclub, Police Chief Jeffrey Furtado has asked the council to hold a show-cause hearing to determine if any action should be taken against the establishment.

Seventeen Roger Williams University students were arrested for underage drinking at the Beach House shortly before midnight on April 25. An undercover officer was stationed at the club and saw several young adults who appeared to be under 21 consuming alcohol, police said. More officers and detectives entered the bar and began checking IDs, subsequently arresting the students. Several of them had used fake IDs to get into the bar, police said.

“I am requesting that the council consider scheduling a show case hearing to determine if any action should be taken against the liquor license, or licensee(s), of the Beach House Tavern, Chief Furtado stated in his May 6 letter to the council.

Other business

Also Monday night, the council:

• will get an update on the proposed tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

• will hear a request for a victualler license from Schultzy’s Snack Shack, 346 Park Ave.

• will hear from The Friends of Anne Hutchinson, a group that wants to donate stone benches to the Founder’s Brook Park and Anne Hutchinson Memorial located off Boyd’s Lane.