2010-07-08 / Front Page

Town nets $750,000 for turbine

By Phil Zahodiakin

The announcement that Jamestown will receive a $750,000 federal grant to help the town build an approximately $5 million wind turbine was the most dramatic piece of news to emerge from the June 6 meeting of the Town Council.

Council member Bob Bowen said he had learned earlier that day that the town had been awarded the full amount of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant that it had requested.

Jamestown has also applied for a $500,000 renewable energy grant from the state Economic Development Corporation, and “that money is still sitting out there, but we haven’t heard anything [about that grant application],” Bowen said.

Nevertheless, the award of ARRA money – better known as President Obama’s economic stimulus grants – effectively “green lights” the steps that will lead to a Jamestown vote on the bond issue that will be required to fund the 1.5- to 1.75-megawatt turbine that the council has endorsed for Taylor Point.

“We need to put together an implementation team,” Bowen said, “and we need to revise some economic models. Now that we know the grant money is coming, we could draw on town funds to update the feasibility study [which was presented to the council by the now-disbanded Wind Energy Committee last fall].”

Bowen told the Press that he doesn’t intend to reconstitute the Wind Energy Committee – which had recommended an additional turbine at Ft. Getty – for the planning in advance of the referendum. Rather, “we will rely on town staff and possibly seek some outside professional input,” Bowen said.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser told the council that “we need to start our preparations to demonstrate to the public the pros and cons of the proposal, including the revenue that the turbine will generate. Bob [Bowen] says that changes in [state] legislation may support building a turbine greater than 1.75 megawatts, which would change the economics in our favor. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done – and we need to start looking at low-interest [clean renewable energy bonds].”

Although the council is fully supportive of the turbine, four of its five members remain reluctant to sign the Jamestown LNG Working Group resolution opposing a liquefied natural gas facility in Mt. Hope Bay. Council member Ellen Winsor, who launched the Working Group last fall, has urged the council to adopt the resolution.

But council President Michael Schnack – who remarked that “we probably won’t sign it” – and three other councilors have previously indicated that they would prefer to sign a joint resolution drafted by Narragansett Bay communities.

Dan Wright, who chairs the LNG Threat Committee – the LNG advisory panel officially representing the town – told the council that his group has discussed the Working Group resolution, and that, at this point, “we are not entirely comfortable recommending that you sign it” because of some unresolved details involving the verbiage. He added, however, that the committee does not have any issues with the substance of the resolution.

Threat Committee vice chairman Dick Lynn said that preparations for a “congress of councils” on the LNG issue are ongoing, and that the committee has been in touch with about 12 non-profit groups about potentially participating in the congress. Lynn added that it looks like the congress could be comprised of two separate meetings: the first, in Jamestown, would establish a unified coalition against the LNG facility; the second, on Aquidneck Island, would focus on strategic planning.

The LNG discussions included council acceptance of a June 18 letter from Weaver’s Cove Energy – which hopes to build the Mt. Hope Bay facility – in which the company disputes the validity of a recent Threat Committee decision to hold an executive session – and questions why the “[c]ommittee would need to withhold any information from the public.”

In less contentious business, the council accepted the updated, 59-page “Building and Facility Report” from the Buildings and Facilities Committee.

Duncan Pendlebury, who chairs the committee, said that his panel “filled in additional information since the report was last updated [in 2009].”

Schnack told Pendlebury that “we need a priority list of buildings [needing repairs] because we tend to let our buildings deteriorate and their replacement costs far exceed repair costs.”

In other business, the council:

• Accepted a report from Public Works environmental scientist Justin Jobin, who identified 75 non-intersection streetlights that could be shut off for a net savings of $8,850. Jobin determined that Jamestown has 354 townowned streetlights (in addition to 20 owned by the state and another seven at the treatment plant, which are already out of service). Jobin, who was asked to perform the analysis by Keiser, advised the council to gather “lots of public input” for any proposal to shut off streetlights, pointing out that “there was a lot of curiosity about what I was doing” during his survey work.

• Learned from Jobin that a pesticide – Talstar – used by a Rhode Island company to control ticks “is not harmful to humans.” A Jamestown resident alerted the council to the environmental warnings on the Talstar label, asking if Talstar is appropriate for use on a rural island. Tobin said the product is intended only to treat yards, to prevent pets from bringing ticks into homes. Keiser noted that, according to the University of Rhode Island, the area’s tick population is down 30% this summer.

• Learned from Keiser that fishing safety signage for the woodpile pier is ready for installation, and that a camera monitoring the touch-and-go dock – to ensure that boaters don’t keep their boats at the new, and old, touch-and-go docks longer than the stated time limits – is up and running.

• Learned from Keiser that the first of the estimates to appraise Ft. Wetherill will cost $3,950; a second estimate is pending.

• Discussed the possibility of enforcing the town sign ordinance – an issue which arose when a local resident told Jamestown Building Official Fred Brown that a sandwich board at a busy intersection, which is state-owned, violated state regulations. Keiser said that a heavy-handed approach to the town ordinance may be undesirable, adding, “Would the community desire the removal of the organic beef signs on North Road?”

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