FAIRHAVEN – Selectmen and turbine opponents were upset last week when the Board of Health sent a survey to those who had lodged complaints against the town’s two wind turbines.
The survey, sent by Health Agent Patricia Fowle, set out to find residents who would be willing to testify at a Board of Health hearing on the turbines.
But some of the questions asked on the survey have other residents asking questions of their own.
The questions attempted to determine whether those filing complaints were against the turbines before they were assembled, asking questions about whether residents publicly spoke up against the turbines before their construction and whether they had “favorable” or “unfavorable” views of wind energy.
Turbine opponent Louise Barteau said she was forwarded the survey by another member of Windwise and found it to be “offensive.”
“It seems like a strategy to discredit people’s honest experiences,” she said. “It seems like they are treating citizens of the town as hostile witnesses, but this is not a court of law and they are not attorneys.”
Fowle said the survey was meant only as an “information gathering tool” and was written by Town Counsel Thomas Crotty.
Crotty did not respond to seven requests for comment over three days.
Fowle said only four people responded to the survey, and of those, two have agreed to testify at a Board of Health hearing.
That hearing was called by turbine developer Fairhaven Wind, and Fowle said the board is trying to make sure all viewpoints “pro and con” are represented.
Chairman of the Board of Health Peter DeTerra said the survey was made for “people who don’t come to meetings so their voice is heard.”
He said though the survey was written by Crotty, it was sent to board members to “give their questions and comments” before being sent out to residents.
Board member Barbara Acksen said she wished the board had discussed the survey first at a meeting.
“There were a lot of questions about people’s attitudes toward wind and not anything that looks like a health survey,” she said.
Members of the Board of Selectmen said the survey is making them question Crotty’s judgment. Chairman Charles Murphy said he thought the questions were “very general” but he was upset that the board was not informed of it by Crotty.
Citing news from two weeks ago that Crotty had neglected to inform selectmen of an extra ballot in the April Board of Health election, Murphy said the town “needs to work about communication.”
Selectmen have been conducting a “periodic review” of Crotty’s contract, and Murphy said this issue will be one of the “many factors up for discussion.”
Selectman Geoffrey Haworth said Crotty’s neglecting to inform selectmen of the survey interferes with the board’s role in town.
“It seems that we are being left out of the loop on a lot of things,” he said. “We need to know what’s going on to effectively govern the community. Learning about it later doesn’t really count.”
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