FAIRHAVEN – The town’s two wind turbines were again the subject of debate Wednesday at West Island Candidates’ Night.
Unlike the two previous candidates’ nights, members of the public are able to question candidates directly at West Island. On Wednesday they wasted no time getting to the turbines.
John Methia, a member of the turbine-opposition group WindWise, asked Board of Health challenger Louise Barteau, also a WindWise member, how she felt about the town’s turbine mitigation plan.
“Some people feel the mitigation plan is flawed,” Methia said.
Barteau said the town “needs to define the scale and scope of the problem” of the wind turbines, something she said “has not been done yet.”
“We need to understand it before we mitigate,” she said.
Residents also asked Board of Health incumbent Jeannine Lopes about her record on the turbines.
Dan Frates, a member of the turbine-supporting group Friends of Fairhaven Wind, asked Lopes whether she thought that Barteau being elected would put the turbines at risk.
Lopes responded that she has heard Barteau “state that they need to be shut down, torn down and taken down,” something Lopes said would cost the town “millions of dollars in lawsuits.”
WindWise member Dawn Devlin accused Lopes of not being for “the whole town” because Lopes supports the turbines. Devlin also asked whether Lopes would be influenced by her employer, former selectman and turbine advocate Brian Bowcock.
“How can you really have an open mind when he belongs to Friends of Fairhaven Wind?” Devlin asked.
Lopes said that even though Bowcock “may have some of the same beliefs as mine that does not mean mine are all the same as his.”
“He is my employer and I have worked for him for 25 years and I am not ashamed of that,” Lopes said. “But our relationship is just that, a work relationship.”
For all the heated questions about the turbines, there was a brief moment of levity during the debate when Lopes accidentally referred to Barteau as “Ms. Turbine.”
The slip-up, which Lopes said happened when she read too far ahead in her prepared notes, caused the entire audience of roughly 100 people – including turbine advocates and opponents – to erupt in laughter.
Candidates for selectmen Charlie Murphy and Steven Riley also were questioned about the turbines.
Frates asked Riley, who sits on the Board of Public Works, whether anyone in the Department of Public Works has ever fallen ill because of the turbines, which sit on the DPW’s property.
Riley said no, noting “We would know if they had.”
Incumbent Murphy was asked whether he “agrees with the small group of people who oppose the turbines.”
Murphy noted that Town Meeting voted for the turbines twice and that, “I voted for them on the Board of Selectmen.”
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