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Resident: turn Portsmouth turbine into billboard

PORTSMOUTH – A local resident has come up with a unique solution to the town’s broken wind turbine problem.

John Vitkevich says the town should consider replacing the turbine – idle since June 2012 due to a faulty gear box – with a digital billboard, similar to those seen on I-195 and other highways.

The turbine, located behind the high school’s tennis courts, is seen prominently by drivers on Route 24. That means an advertiser with deep pockets may be willing to pay for the prime real estate, said Mr. Vitkevich, who’s well known for his opposition to the Sakonnet River Bridge tolls.

“We’re on the hook for $220,000 a year for the next 10 years,” Mr. Vitkevich said of the mortgage the town has left on the turbine.

Replacing it with another turbine may not be the most economically viable solution, he said.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see another windmill there,” said Mr. Vitkevich, adding that his idea is only meant as a means of paying off the town’s debt on the turbine. “I’m only looking at the $220,000 loss.”

Mr. Vitkevich said he has mentioned the idea to some potential advertisers, but he wants to wait to see what the town will do with the turbine before going forward “with serious intent.”

Finding a solution to the turbine problem was identified as a top priority by the Town Council at its Saturday meeting to discuss goals going forward.

When the council first set its goals at a Dec. 1, 2012 meeting, Council President James Seveney said, “The update at the time was that (the turbine) was broken. The update today is that it’s broken.”

However, the town is actively seeking a solution to the problem, Mr. Seveney said. “The reason this has been quiet and not broadcast loudly at Town Council meetings is that it involves negotiations with interested parties,” he said, adding that there are “a couple of parties involved.”

Town Administrator John Klimm said the council will be asked to take a vote on a proposed solution soon. “While there certainly can be criticism on the amount of time we have taken … it’s an incredibly complex issue,” said Mr. Klimm.

Mr. Vitkevich said he just wants town officials to keep an open mind about his idea.

“I’m only looking to right some of these wrongs,” he said.