2012-08-23 / Front Page

Town axes turbine

Council votes 4-1 to dismiss proposal; Bowen disagrees
BY ALEXANDER RAEBURN

After years of discussion and planning, the Town Council voted Monday 4-1 to abandon the proposed Taylor Point wind turbine. Councilman Bob Bowen voted against the measure, stating that more information was needed before the project was dismissed.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we stop the process when we’re in a position to be funded to get additional data to help make an informed decision,” he said. “Some of the comments I heard regarding whether this was an appropriate business decision ... doesn’t make any sense if you stop and try to make a business decision without the right facts.”

He added, “I think it’s an unfortunate direction for the Town Council to go.”

The project was finally set to rest because the council had to vote on whether or not to continue the application process for a $44,000 grant from the Economic Development Corporation. According to Town Council President Michael Schnack, the grant was to complete studies to give hard numbers on the cost of a turbine and the in- terconnect. Schnack said the town only had “soft numbers” on both matters.

Schnack also noted that, because of the extensive public discussion during the previous meeting’s open forum, the council would vote on the issue without additional public comment.

“Most of the criticism we got said that we shouldn’t do it because we have no evidence,” said Councilor Mike White. “I guess I don’t like to make decisions without evidence, so that’s the difficulty I’m having.”

White admitted that he was “sitting on the fence” when he began speaking about the Taylor Point project.

Bowen was for pursuing the grant to get the remaining information for the project. “I think we’re at a point now where we’ve got a small amount of information left to go and the state Economic Development Corporation is willing to fund us to collect that remaining amount of information. I think once we got that data we would be able to have a really sentient and informed discussion as to whether we want to move forward.”

Councilor Ellen Winsor said the turbine wasn’t the right fit for Jamestown. “The proposed Jamestown turbine is too close to a public road and too close to homes,” she said. “The wastewater treatment plant, certainly a town asset, is within 200 feet of the turbine. Jamestown’s wastewater treatment plant not functioning would create an emergency if the wastewater treatment were to be hit by a partial or full blade throw, or if the 350-foot tower was to fall on the wastewater treatment plant.”

Another issue involving the wind turbine was that it would be municipally run, similar to the Portsmouth wind turbine.

Councilor Bill Murphy said he came to the conclusion the town was “basically going into the electrical generating business and I feel that we really should not be. I don’t think the town has the expertise.”

Murphy then questioned if the town had the right employees to administer a turbine. “I don’t think our planner can handle managing a windmill.”

Schnack was on the Town Council that initially funded the wind feasibility study more than five years ago. “At this point I think we have enough information. I am not in favor of asking the state for any more money and I would consider just stopping this project where it stands.”

His statement was followed by a round of applause from the audience.

The broader subject of renewable energy came about repeatedly even though the discussion and eventual vote regarded only the Taylor Point turbine.

“I think that green energy’s a good idea,” said White. “I think renewable energy is the way to go. It would be nice, but I guess everybody doesn’t like wind so we’ll see if we can do something else. But I’m not really sure if it is good to have applause for the fact that we may have failed in attempting to have renewable energy in Jamestown. We may have bit off more than we can chew.”

“My personal belief,” said Schnack, “is that I don’t think the town should enter into a venture at the break-even level just to demonstrate that we can produce renewable energy.”

Murphy explained that there are other town projects currently in the works that will help conserve energy. “It’s not that [the council] isn’t into energy conservation or the benefit of the health of the world – as some people are calling it – it’s just the magnitude. I think what I’ve been trying to convince everybody that we can [achieve] the same benefits if we do things such as conservation. We’ve got a conservation effort going to improve even this building and all our town buildings, so if we do energy conservation, that’s a good thing.”

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