DIXFIELD – The Board of Selectmen heard advice from two lawyers Monday evening regarding the November 2012 town meeting warrant that asked voters whether they wanted to enact a wind energy ordinance.
Discussion on the matter began during the June 23 selectmen meeting, when Selectman Hart Daley asked Puiia to check the legality of the warrant because he and Scott Belskis had not signed it. The ballot question was approved.
Puiia said Monday evening that he received legal opinions from Kristen Collins of Kelly and Collins LLC, who is revising the wind energy ordinance, and Becky Seal of Maine Municipal Association.
Daley pointed out that Seal provided the town with three options, two of which would “cost the town in legal fees if we tried taking the validity of the ordinance to court.”
“I noticed that the third option was to have the town vote on the original ordinance or a revised ordinance, which Kristen Collins has basically completed,” Daley said. “I think it’s the intention of the board to review the ordinance after she and the Planning Board had finished and set a date to vote on the revised ordinance. That would meet Becky Seal’s legal advice.”
Collins advised that she “didn’t feel a court would overturn the vote.”
Later in the meeting, Puiia told selectmen he would ask Collins when she would have the ordinance revisions completed.
Since January 2013, the Planning Board has been revising the wind power development ordinance, which will go to voters.
During the June 16 board meeting, Daley said he attended a recent Planning Board meeting at which Collins wanted to know why the town didn’t have a moratorium on wind power projects while the ordinance is being revised.
Daley suggested that selectmen adopt the language from the wind energy moratorium ordinance that was approved in 2009 and expired in 2010.
The board voted to schedule a public hearing and special town meeting on Thursday, Aug. 7, to discuss adopting a 180-day moratorium, and subsequently postponed it to Aug. 21 after Collins said she needed time to draft the language.
“Based on the timing of everything, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to meet the Aug. 21 deadline,” Puiia told the board. “I can contact Kristen and see when she’ll be able to have the language of the new moratorium written, and when she expects to be done revising the wind energy ordinance.”
Puiia said he hopes to have a response from Collins by the next board meeting July 28.
“If you wish, you can hold a public hearing on a wind moratorium sooner, and then hold the special town meeting to vote on it at a later date, or you can wait and do them both on the same date,” Puiia said.
In other business, the board voted 3-1 to approve Jennifer Kreckel of Kreckel Law in Rumford as the new town attorney.
Kreckel will replace Matthew Tarasevich of Bernstein Shur in Portland.
Puiia, who worked with Kreckel when he was Rumford’s town manager, said she did a “very good job” and would “be good for this town.”
After voting to approve Kreckel, Daley said that he thinks Tarasevich “did a great job,” and that the change in town attorney had “nothing to do with his job performance.”
“In the long run, it comes down to money,” Daley said. “Having Jen as our lawyer will save us money.”
Tarasevich will remain the town’s attorney for the ongoing union negotiations between the town and Public Works.
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