A deal between the Town of Falmouth and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has reduced the town’s debt on one of its two municipal wind turbines by more than $1 million.
Selectmen Chairman Susan Moran announced Monday that selectmen had come to an agreement with the CEC to pay off its debt for Wind 1 for $178,000. That figure was negotiated down from $1.5 million.
Selectmen voted in executive session Monday to authorize Town Manager Julian Suso to finalize the agreement with the CEC.
“I appreciate the board’s support for letting these negotiations unfold,” Suso said upon the board’s return to open session Monday night.
Both Wind 1 and its counterpart, Wind 2, are located near the town’s wastewater treatment facility on Blacksmith Shop Road. Both structures are shut down by order of Barnstable Superior Court judge, this following complaints from neighbors about noise and health impacts caused by the structures.
In the town’s appeal of an April 2016 ruling from the Falmouth Board of Appeals not to issue a special permit for Wind 1’s continued operation, Judge Cornelius Moriarty ruled June 20 against the town. He found that the turbines constituted a nuisance to neighbors, and that both turbines should cease operation.
In July, selectmen announced that they would not appeal the decision further. Instead, selectmen discussed last month plans for moving on from the turbines’ operation. That includes settling its debts to the state on the turbines, as well as exploring possible alternative uses for the structures.
Article 19 on the warrant for Annual Town Meeting in April will seek the $178,000 needed to pay of the town’s debt to the CEC. If approved, the payment would be funded through free cash, Suso said.
The town still has to settle its debt to the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust relative tot he turbines. Suso estimated that the town owes “between $4 million and $5 million” to the trust. Discussions with the trust are ongoing, he said.
Selectmen on Monday also voted to authorize Suso to contract an engineering consulting firm to take a “comprehensive” look at all options for both Wind 1 and Wind 2 moving forward. That includes studying different possible locations for the turbines elsewhere on the wastewater treatment plant property.
Suso said the decision to place the turbines at their current locations was based on the potential for producing wind energy. The upcoming study will look at locations that will cause less disturbance to neighbors and residents, he said.
The contractor, when hired, will also look at potential alternative uses for both turbines. It has been suggested that the structures could be repurposed as cell towers to help improve reception for public safety officials.
No timetable was given Monday for when a contractor might be hired and when the study might be complete. However, selectmen have been charged by Rod Palmer, the town’s building commissioner, to prepare a future plan for the turbines for his review by the end of May.
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