FAIRHAVEN – The owner of the town’s two wind turbines resumed full operations of the machines Tuesday night in defiance of the Board of Health’s June order that the turbines be shut off between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Turbine manager Gordon Deane, in a statement released Tuesday night, said officials of Fairhaven Wind, which owns the turbines, decided to turn them back on after a meeting of the health board earlier in the day. During that session, the board failed to reach a consensus on a proposal submitted by Fairhaven Wind to address concerns about the turbines’ noise levels.
The details of that proposal have not been made public and the Board of Health discussed it in a closed-door meeting.
Deane’s statement said the proposal dealt with interim operation of the turbines while the Board of Health continues to study the issue.
“The proposal followed the outline provided by the Board of Health to Fairhaven Wind, and should have met all of the Board of Health’s conditions,” Deane said. “Unfortunately, the unwillingness or inability of the Board of Health to work with the other parties, including the Board of Selectmen, is preventing any progress.”
The statement goes on to say that the turbines will be operating around the clock until Fairhaven Wind has a public hearing in front of the Board of Health “or the parties reach some other acceptable form of compromise.”
Reached at home Tuesday evening, Peter DeTerra, chairman of the Board of Health, said he had not yet seen Deane’s statement and would need to “look into it” before commenting.
Charlie Murphy, chairman of the Board of Selectman and the board’s negotiating representative on the turbine contract, could not immediately be reached for comment.
For his part, Selectman Geoffrey Haworth said the issue is in the health board’s hands because selectmen don’t have control “over the startup and shutdown of the turbines.”
He said he hoped Fairhaven Wind’s actions were “just a minor setback” in the selectmen’s contract negotiations, noting that there is always “give and take on both sides.”
But Haworth acknowledged that “If one side postures too much in a way that isn’t cooperative, it can be difficult to reach a compromise.”
Daniel Freitas, who is a member of Friends of Fairhaven Wind and supports the turbines, blamed the health board members for their inaction Tuesday, saying “it’s time for our town officials to start doing the job they were elected to do.
“There have been many, many meetings over this and no one has been able to come to a conclusion as to what to do,” he said.
However, Louise Barteau, who is a member of WindWise and opposes the turbines, supported the Board of Health, saying members were “holding up under intense pressure to try and consider the health of the town.
“I see it as an extraordinarily positive act on the part of the board” that members didn’t rush to vote, she said.
Earlier Tuesday, the Board of Health discussed the proposal but was unable to reach a consensus, DeTerra said. Board member Barbara Acksen said after the meeting that each of the three members made separate motions for different actions, but none was seconded.
Not much is known about Fairhaven Wind’s proposal, in part, because the health board discussed it in executive session. Media present, including The Standard-Times, questioned the reason for a closed-door meeting. DeTerra said it was justified because it dealt with contract negotiations and “potential litigation” between the town and the turbine developer.
The Board of Health is not the negotiating party on the town’s contract with Fairhaven Wind LLC; the Board of Selectmen has sole authority to negotiate that contract.
The state attorney general’s online Open Meeting Law Guide explicitly states that “discussions relating to potential litigation” do not constitute a legal purpose for a closed-door executive session.
Earlier in the day, Deane confirmed there is no pending litigation between the two parties “at this point” but that there is “certainly a potential” for litigation in the future.
Town Counsel Thomas Crotty, who telephoned into the hour-long, closed-door meeting, could not be reached for comment.
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