FAIRHAVEN – Board of Health challenger Louise Barteau defended wind turbine neighbors Wednesday night while distancing herself from other members of the group Windwise during a Candidates Night.
Asked about comments made by some Windwise members on social media that pro-turbine advocates are akin to Nazis or members of the Klu Klux Klan, Barteau said the comparisons are “absolutely not valid.”
Barteau, a Windwise member who is challenging incumbent Jeanine Lopes for a seat on the board, said she “did not know” those comments had been made.
“I reject all of that name calling; I don’t take that tack,” she said. “I don’t think it is helpful.”
But, she said she did understand the frustration of turbine neighbors who “have the right to be treated with respect and dignity by every board in this town.”
“Majority and minority stuff does not matter,” she said. “If you are in the minority, you need to be responded to just as well as if you are someone who voted for this project.”
For her part, Board of Health incumbent Lopes defended herself against criticism that as a member of the board she has not appropriately responded to health concerns about the turbines.
“We have worked with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that the turbines will be in compliance,’ she said. “When we first learned there was an issue with compliance, this board acted to safeguard the health of our citizens.”
Candidates for the Board of Selectmen Charlie Murphy and Steven Riley avoided discussing the turbines in their 10-minute self-introductions. Instead, the two focused on town administration and budget.
Murphy suggested that the medical marijuana dispensary slated to open over the summer will help bring money in.
“We can be creative and find new ways to bring revenue into town without raising taxes,” he said.
Riley said he would bring to the board quick decision making skills he said it has been lacking.
“When we were interviewing for town counsel, I don’t know why we did that,” he said. “Why don’t we instead make sure the boards just don’t use town counsel as much?”
But the two could not avoid the turbine issue completely and were asked about it by a three-member community panel.
Asked if he would have done anything about the turbines differently, Murphy noted that he was on the Board of Health when the machines were approved by the selectmen.
But, he said, “In the future I think we’ll see industrial-sized turbines only in industrial zones.”
Riley said he believes the town should put the turbine issue to rest, saying that the issue has made people “nervous to run for office because of all the back and forth over the turbines.”
“The town voted to have the turbines in 2007, it’s the will of the people,” he said. “It’s time that we realize they are here, they are probably going to stay here and we have to live with them. We have to move past it.”
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