Falmouth town voters have spoken and, for now, it looks as though Wind 1 and Wind 2 will keep turning at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility.
With 100% of all 9 precinct results in, the May 21 annual Town Election summary report states that 6,001 people (67.12%) voted NO and 2,940 (32.88%) voted YES on Question 2 – the ballot question on whether the town should fund removal of the industrial-sized turbines that have divided the communtiy since they were erected about three years ago. Falmouth selectmen had urged the town to vote YES on the ballot question, and it’s not clear what the selectmen’s next steps will be.
Falmouth voted the opposite with the other big issue facing the town, saying YES to Question 1. The ballot question asked voters to fund a comprehensive wastewater management plan and to pay costs for design and construction of a water treatment system and water treatment filtration plant. The result was 5,094 (58.28%) YES votes and 3,646 (41.72%) NO votes.
Selectwoman Mary Pat Flynn will return to the Board of Selectmen, receiving 4,368 votes (28.51%). She will be joined by newly-elected incumbent Selectwoman Rebecca Moffitt. The departing School Committee chairman will replace David Braga, who chose not to seek re-election. Moffit received 3,540 votes (23.10%). Candidate Marc P. Finneran received 3,246 votes (21.18%) while David Moriarity received 1,546 votes (10.02 %).
Out of 24,158 registered town voters, 9,873 people (40.87%) voted in the May 21 election.
The Falmouth Board of Selectmen will reorganize at its next meeting, Meanwhile, Current Selectmen Chairman Kevin Murphy said he does not expect he will place the wind turbine discussion on the next selectmen’s meeting agenda.
“I don’t know if it’s fair for the next chairman for me to put it on the next agenda on their first meeting as chairman. The sky isn’t going to fall in the next week. The board will give it its utmost attention, and as quickly as possible. I will be setting the agenda for the next meeting, but I will not be the chairman of the next meeting. Putting an issue on the agenda of this size and impact for a new selectman and a new chairman is not in the best interest of the government,” Murphy said.
“I am disappointed in regards to Question 2, but, as with everything else, the voters got the chance to speak and give some direction to the selectmen, and that is what elections are all about,” he added. “Folks were somewhat divided in the community about the actions of the Board of Selectmen. We need to take that into account as we move forward.”
Murphy believes it was economics that swayed the town to vote against funding removal of the turbines. “I think [the voters] spoke with their pocketbooks, and they have every right to do so. The board will take that into account as we move forward,” Murphy said. “The solution at this time is not to run these turbines 24-7. The source that is the regulatory authority, the DEP, does not allow us to run them 24-7, so we will not run these turbines 24-7 until we can come up with a solution that is not going to affect the health and safety of our neighbors.”
West Falmouth resident Donald Malcolm has been one of the strongest opponents of the turbines. In a statement issued after the election, he said the May 21 vote failed to provide a solution to the negative impacts of he and other neighbors who say the turbines are too big and too close to homes.
“Wind 1 and Wind 2 have recently been declared a nuisance by the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals. The ZBA has full authority to correct the neighbors’ problem by shutting the turbines down,” Donald said. “[The May 21] vote was about money and the unhappiness of Falmouth citizens that the town, with state involvement, put two huge industrial turbines too close to residential neighborhoods. The wind turbine project has put the town in the difficult position where the only viable solution is to spend more millions of dollars to solve the problem.”
Falmouth Town Manager Julian Suso said he is gratified the voters have provided direction to the town, and it culminates the selectmen’s intention to bring the issue before voters following a Wind Turbines Options Analysis Process (WTOP) that explored a range of options on how to deal with the divisive issue in the town.
“The WTOP Process was an important part of that comprehensive review and analysis scenario – for which the board unanimously took the position to remove the turbines in their meeting this past January, subject to the necessary debt exclusion steps including Town Meeting and ultimately the voters. This was the culmination of thoughtful, disciplined and deliberative procedure on the part of the board, including a full public meeting review and deliberation process with many opportunities for public input and interaction,” Suso said. “I would anticipate, subject to Chairman Murphy’s concurrence, that the board will be having a further discussion on next steps to be considered at an upcoming [selectmen] meeting.”
Moving forward, Suso said he believes the May 21 election results will help shape the town’s direction. “The definitive decisions of Falmouth voters on Questions 1 and 2, and the election of Pat Flynn and Rebecca Moffitt as members of the Board of Selectmen, will set the tone for upcoming town issues for the immediate future,” he said.
The May 21 election also saw a political newcomer garner more votes for the Falmouth School Committee than two incumbent School Committee members who were up for re-election.
Judith Fenwick and Samuel Patterson, Jr. were re-elected to the Falmouth School Committee, with 4,981 votes (26.70%) and 4,872 votes (26.12%), respectively. They will be joined by Leah Palmer, who edged out David E. Schwamb for the School Committee vacancy left by Moffitt. Palmer received 5,711 votes (30.61%) vs. 3,051 votes (16.35%) for Schwamb.
“I was very surprised by the support of the Falmouth community. I worked hard to reach out to residents and make connections but was always worried there were people I was missing. I feel humbled by the support and am ready to be a voice for the community,” Palmer said. “My first steps as a new School Committee member will be to learn how the School Committee works by observing and asking questions. In addition, I want to get out into schools. Understanding and building on the strengths of the schools is a priority for me. I am looking forward to being a leader in improving the education of English language learners in Falmouth public schools.”
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