FARMERSVILLE – The Farmersville Town Board tabled a proposal Monday night to hire a Buffalo engineering firm to look after the town’s interests in the ongoing wind turbines controversy.
Town board members led by Supervisor Robert Karcher seemed to prefer GHD Engineering Group of Buffalo over Barton & Loguidice of Albany, but decided to refer the issue to town attorney David DiMatteo.
The board interviewed company officials at special meetings on April 1 and 11, the supervisor said.
Town policy calls for getting proposals from three firms before entering into a contract for services. The town sought requests for proposals from five firms. Two decided they had a conflict and another one withdrew. That left the two.
Karcher said GHD has contracts with the other towns involved in the proposed $550 million Alle Catt Wind Farm in northern Cattaraugus and Allegany counties and the town of Arcade in Wyoming County.
“They (GHD) would be in the area working for other towns and protecting the towns and residents,” Karcher said.
Farmersville United President Mark Heberling suggested the board needs to know the engineering firm’s hourly rates – particularly if they were doing sound studies.
Karcher replied that the board intended to “stay within the funds we are going to get” from the wind farm developer, Invenergy. He did not specify how much that would be.
Another resident asked about conflicts of interest on the board with respect to wind turbine leases.
Karcher said Councilman Richard Westfall, who has a wind lease, had eliminated himself from voting.
Westfall nodded, adding, “I’ve recused myself” from voting on the issue.
Another resident asked whether Councilman Richard Zink had a conflict.
Karcher said Zink’s parents have a wind lease in the town of Freedom and that he did not have a conflict.
Zink said the town attorney had ruled he was not in a conflict situation.
The town’s 2009 local law on wind turbines remains in effect. It has a limit of 450 feet from the ground to the tip of the blade. Invenergy sought a 600-foot limit and has talked with town officials about increasing its proposed host fee from $360,000 to $500,000.
Karcher said he’d been told they don’t make 450-foot wind turbines anymore.
The Cattaraugus County Planning Board rejected the town’s proposed wind law. The town could still pass the law, but it would require a super-majority of the board, four out of the five voting members.
One member, A.J. Warner, the deputy supervisor, resigned effective March 18. He was concerned the industrial wind turbines with insufficient setbacks would cause health problems for residents.
With four members, all four would have to vote to approve the local law for it to be effective. It might be more difficult given the opposition of the county planning obard.
The town board agreed to advertise for candidates interested in serving the remainder of Warner’s term, which ends Dec. 31. Letters of interest will be accepted through May 3 and interviews would be held at a special meeting May 13, the week before the board’s regular monthly meeting.
Karcher said some people have already expressed interest in the appointment.
Cattaraugus County Legislator Donna Vickman, R-Farmersville, is running unopposed for Warner’s seat in the November election. Her legislative term ends at the end of the year.
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