2006-10-26 / Front Page

Wind-power, movies and deer on minds of council

By Dotti Farrington

Wind energy and movie production fees were introduced as new municipal concerns at the Town Council meeting Monday. The topics joined repeats and updates on long-standing issues, such as deer hunting, on the council agenda.

The councilors agreed to pursue studies of wind-power options, and they assigned Town Administrator Bruce Keiser to gather information and suggestions about a possible movie production fee for use of town locations in commercial movies. By consensus for the time being, they excluded a proposed use of Fort Getty for a documentary by a PBS affiliated firm.

Council Vice President Julio DiGiando said that wind energy ties in with the general town goals of "going green," which was discussed as part of budget talks within the past several months.

Residents Robert Bowen and Bucky Brennan reported on work of their two unofficial groups of citizens who have been working independently for several months on gathering data about wind energy, spurred in part by reports of success of a wind device at the Portsmouth Abbey.

Bowen said a "white paper" report about the technology, with options and possibilities, was submitted last week to the town. It focuses on an installation, of possibly only one device, to create energy mainly for municipal buildings.

Brennan reported work to develop data for harnessing of wind energy for wider uses, probably on a statewide basis. He talked about installation of two or more devices. He suggested that the energy generated would be sold by the town and profits used to offset municipal energy and other costs. "We all need renewal energy. We need to be a visionary community" by taking a leadership role in area or global needs.

Keiser and Bowen referred to state interest in such projects and in the availability of grants, known to be up to $30,000 with a local match of $5,000, to develop studies or operations.

The council also acknowledged the need to learn more about esthetic and practical aspects of wind power.

More information for council consideration is slated to be presented at its November meetings, Keiser said. Possible sites already being tentatively considered are town owned parcels at Taylor Point and Fort Getty.

Movie money

The council delegated Keiser to develop more information on his suggestion that the town consider a policy that would provide fees for use of the town as a movie location rather than seek donations from movie production companies. Disney has been filming a movie segment on island in recent weeks.

Keiser said that industry sources told him there are no set or standard agreements about costs for publicly-owned film locations, although there is widespread knowledge that fees are negotiated with owners of private properties used as movie locations. Keiser suggested that such a fee schedule would be in addition to assessment of costs for municipal services, such as police assignments. He also said the policy would have no impact on or authority over payments to private entities.

The councilors said they want the policy to specify a town contact worker so that film companies are not inundated with people looking for donations for use of publicly owned locations. Among reports in the council's packet was a notation that a donation from Disney was believed to be forthcoming for the proposed teen center, a matter still unresolved, in lieu of fees for use of town locations.

Deer hunting

Council members and residents expressed chagrin and annoyance that the state Department of Environmental Management was not represented as the DEM had promised for a discussion about the pending use of Beavertail State Park for deer hunting that could start Nov. 13.

The councilors told Keiser to schedule a special meeting before that date with the DEM to get answers to questions listed by residents Monday about hunting at Beavertail.

Keiser presented new data about local hunting locations other than Beavertail, which is the southernmost segment of the island. The data, applied to a map of the island, show where most of the deer were taken last year, he said. He pointed out that most locations were taken north of Route 138. Last year's count included 47 deer taken by hunting and 16 by highway accidents. It also is believed by some that about a dozen deer were taken by hunting not officially reported.

Those opposed to hunting in general and to hunting deer at Beavertail specifically want to know why the DEM is insisting on hunting at Beavertail, where the herd is believed to be relatively small, and the hunt would have a nominal impact on the deer population, while disrupting general public use of the park.

They also are concerned that the DEM has interpreted information from the National Park Service as giving permission for hunting at Beavertail, while others argue that the federal data does not represent permission. Town Solicitor J. William W. Harsch said the town could challenge the data through the courts, but he predicted a long time to pursue a court decision. One resident asked that the town be prepared to seek an injunction if the state does not answer questions, especially about its interpretation of federal permission and its failure to get town and advisory committee permission as required by various documents.

Others asked about posting the park, and enforcing regulations about permits and safety factors.

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