Even budget discussions took on the cast of wind development as the Windham Select Board discussed legal and other expenditures related to the situation at its Monday, Oct. 3 meeting. Selectman Kord Scott was absent due to illness.
Under Iberdrola wind project related items, chair Frank Seawright said that the Windham Foundation had announced that it was opposed to the commercial wind project proposed for the Stiles Brook tract owned by Meadowsend Timberlands.
Nancy Tips gave the board a presentation on what impact a monetary gift by wind developer Iberdrola to the Windham School would have on education taxes paid by Windham residents. Her conclusion was that if Iberdrola gave a gift of $100,00 to the school, a property assessed at $100,000 would see a tax savings of $280.30 a year.
Planning Commission chair Bob Bingham told the board about the rules that the Public Service Department was developing to provide town plans with substantial deference in Public Service Board deliberations. He said that Windham meets most of the criteria that have been developed so far. But he cautioned the board that PSB regulations state that town plans will be accepted unless the board decides that a certificate of public good outweighs the plan.
Most of the meeting was taken up with a presentation by Town Treasurer Peter Chamberlain on the 2017 budget. He and the board discussed budgets for the following departments: Appropriations/Dues/Fees/Taxes, Public Safety, Select Board and Treasurer. During discussion of the Select Board Budget the legal services line item drew considerable comment.
Chamberlain mentioned that the cost of legal services may increase if Iberdrola files for a certificate of public good for the proposed wind project. He thought there may be a need to hire specialists in the fields of hydrology and sound and well has legal representation before the PSB. Assistant Treasurer Kathy Scott questioned the need for increased legal services when Iberdrola has pledged to abandon the project if the town votes against it.
Seawright responded that even if the town votes for the project, legal fees would be incurred because the town would be obligated to defend the Town Plan, which specifically prohibits commercial wind development. Assistant Treasurer Scott responded that the board expects Iberdrola to live by its pledge but isn’t willing to live by a majority yes vote.
As the meeting came to a close, Seawright read a letter to the board from resident Jim Chlebogiannis, who requested that each member of the board sign a good faith agreement that for a period of five years they would not enter into a financial arrangement with Iberdrola, Avangrid, Meadowsend Timberlands or any of their subsidiaries. Seawright and board member Maureen Bell readily agreed to sign such a pledge. Board member Kord Scott was not present and his position was unknown.