Kingston Town Administrator Robert Fennessy has been charged with negotiating a contract with the wind turbine consultant the Board of Health recommends be hired to assist with drafting flicker regulations.
While approving up to $10,000 to hire the consultant, K2 Management, selectmen want Fennessy to meet with the company’s representatives to narrow the scope of services that’s proposed. The consultant’s primary role would be to help the Board of Health develop a flicker regulation.
The cost was an issue for all the selectmen at their meeting Tuesday night. They had been given an estimate of up to $22,200 for the original scope of services.
Selectmen Chairman Elaine Fiore said the Board of Health can benefit from the expertise the consultant brings to the table. She said board members’ knowledge of the issue has reached a point where they need help.
“I don’t know where we go from here if we say no tonight,” she said. “Then we’re done.”
She stressed the importance of quantifying the kilowatt-hours, and therefore the lost revenue, if the turbine were to shut down for any length of time.
“You need to know what the lost revenue is if you’re going to make any decision on shutting it down, turning it off, whatever the situation may be,” she said.
Board of Health Chairman Joe Casna said the board needs to follow the advice of town counsel and carefully approach regulating turbines, in this case for flicker, using science, or risk a lawsuit. He said the town would then have a basis for negotiating mitigating measures.
Without a vote, Fiore said, they are at a standstill.
Also at a standstill is the planned acoustic study of the Independence wind turbine. Board of Health Chairman Joe Casna announced that the Independence is offline indefinitely due to mechanical problems.
Selectman Dennis Randall said the human element should not be ignored when making decisions about the wind turbines, whether it’s a new regulation or a bylaw change.
Some critics of Kingston’s turbines argued this week that they don’t think the town needs to spend money on a consultant. While affected residents are asking why the turbine continues to have mechanical problems after previously being struck by lightning, they are also happy to have relief from flicker.
Monday night, Leland Road resident Sean Reilly said he can’t understand why quality of life isn’t the primary concern of the Board of Health. If it were, he said, flicker would be declared a nuisance and immediate action would be taken by the Board of Health to prevent flicker from affecting residents.
Copper Beech Drive resident David Kennedy argued Tuesday night that no further study is needed based on the results of the flicker study by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.
“I think we have enough information that we have gathered from the flicker study and the amount of health complaints,” he said.
When Board of Health member Toni Cushman asked about the possibility of seeking relief for the residents, Casna said the wind turbine operators show no desire to take action.
The Board of Health is seeking a new flicker regulation. The Planning Board is seeking a bylaw change for siting turbines. Monday night is the continued public hearing for a proposed flicker bylaw for future wind turbine projects. It’s also the public hearing for a medical marijuana treatment center moratorium.
The Green Energy Committee has its own flicker zoning proposal and will present it to the Planning Board before the hearing Monday night. Speaking during open forum at the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday, Mark Beaton from the Green Energy Committee recommended that selectmen hold off on a decision about the consultant.
Beaton said Tech Environmental, a company the Board of Health had on its list of possible consultants but did not interview, has offered to do a flicker study for $1,250 using a different model than the one used by Mass CEC for its flicker study.
Critical residents say companies like K2 and Tech Environmental work for the wind turbine industry and therefore are not independent consultants and won’t represent the town’s interests.
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