FAIRHAVEN – With the public being allowed to submit questions, the Fairhaven Shipyard vied with the wind turbines Tuesday among issues presented to candidates.
Most of the questions at the event March 18 were directed at the two candidates for Board of Health, incumbent Jeannine Lopes and challenger Louise Barteau. Ms. Barteau was asked repeatedly about her association with Windwise and her vocal opposition to the wind turbines.
At one point, she said she felt like she was being blamed for things said by other members of Windwise.
“I’m kind of taking the hit for members of Windwise,” she said, after being asked about claims that children at the new Wood School would suffer educationally from the wind turbines.
“I’m sure they’re ranking very high,” she said of the test scores at the new school, which opened last year. Ms. Barteau said she was more concerned about children losing sleep because of noise from the two industrial wind turbines.
“I feel that there are very real health concerns,” she said.
As for the neighbors’ complaints about the shipyard, including particulates and noise from its operations, Ms. Barteau said the town shouldn’t just rely on the state Department of Environmental Protection to take action. She said local communities are going to have to do more on their own to protect residents’ health.
Ms. Lopes responded to Ms. Barteau’s suggestion that one member of the health board could take the lead on the neighbors’ complaints. She said the health board “did assign one person and it was never dealt with. She totally ignored it so the whole board is working on it now.”
The unnamed board member was Barbara Acksen, who in the past has been active in Windwise and who has served with shipyard owner Gail Isaksen as a commissioner of the town’s trust funds.
The event was sponsored by the Fairhaven Business Association and held at the Carousel Family Fun Center. While the Board of Health candidates got the most grilling, questions were also directed to the two candidates vying for one seat on the Board of Selectmen.
Incumbent Charles Murphy and challenger Steve Riley both promised to control spending if elected. Mr. Riley is a long-time Board of Public Works member and its current chairman. In his introductory remarks, he said he decided to run partly from frustration over the Select Board’s decisions on spending. He said the board couldn’t come up with $400,000 one year after spending $450,000 the previous year that could have been set aside for future needs.
“The town of Fairhaven doesn’t have an income problem, it has an expense problem,” he said.
Both candidates said they are not in favor of pay-per-throw but do favor having residents use the new, larger recycling bins.
“As a selectman, I will fight to ensure that no trash fee is instituted,” Mr. Murphy said. But he said the town needs more sources of revenue than state aid.
On a personal note, Mr. Murphy said he has been “trained to be a good listener” in his work as a licensed therapist. He stressed the business connections he’s made as a high-level Rotary Club member. Mr. Murphy said he’s used his Rotary connections to pitch Fairhaven to prospective businesses.
Attracting new business and being more business-friendly were among the questions asked the selectmen candidates.
Mr. Murphy said the new E-permitting will expedite permitting for new businesses. Mr. Riley said Town Hall is perceived as not being business friendly. He said getting permits is “a huge stumbling block,” which hurts efforts to “attract businesses to fill empty space.”
In her opening remarks, Ms. Lopes stressed her experience and certifications in dealing with Board of Health responsibilities like the flu clinics, mosquito control and restaurant inspections.
Ms. Barteau stressed what she called critical thinking skills learned in earning a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University. She said she worked nights as a nurse’s aide to help pay her way through college. Ms. Barteau, who was appointed to the Conservation Commission last year, said she has taken advantage of educational opportunities offered by the state to get up to speed on conservation issues.
As for whether she would try to shut down the wind turbines, she said the health board had the right idea when it shut them down from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.