Thursday January 3, 2013

GRAFTON - The town's selectboard has opted to postpone a public informational meeting scheduled for later this month on a proposed wind test tower.

The meeting - which will now be held at 1 p.m. at Grafton Elementary School on Saturday, Feb. 2 - is aimed at providing a fair and open debate for both sides of what has become a hotly-debated issue. Iberdrola Renewables, operating as Atlantic Wind LLC, is one of the world's largest energy companies and formally asked for the state's permission to construct three test towers - two in Windham and one in Grafton on land owned by New Hampshire-based Meadowsend Timberlands Limited.

The Public Review Board in Montpelier last week granted permission to the company to construct the three meteorological-testing (MET) towers. The towers could be a precursor to Windham County's first commercial wind turbines, depending on the weather data they produce. But a group called Friends of Grafton's Heritage is adamantly opposed to the proposal and its members have been fighting to defeat it.

The meeting's previous date - Saturday, Jan. 26 - was printed in an edition of The Grafton News but members of the Selectboard later realized that provided a scheduling conflict. Selectboard Chairman Al Sands said the notion that the board is moving the meeting is not entirely true because two dates were chosen - a primary one and an alternative one.

He said the meeting will feature a panel of people from both sides of the issue - ones who support the towers and those who are against it.


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He said both parties will be able to offer presentations and rebuttals. Representatives from Atlantic Wind will attend the public meeting and provide their argument as to why the town should consider supporting the project.

A group called The Friends of Grafton's Heritage has previously expressed frustration that the Selectboard has not taken an official position on the towers. But Sands said the Selectboard is committed to gathering as much information as possible before making a decision. He said, out of respect for the landowner and the energy company, board members should not listen only to the arguments against the proposal.

Sands also wanted to debunk the myth that the Selectboard has done nothing in regards to this matter. He said its members have done their best to educate themselves on the issue and have attended public meetings in Windham and Newfane.

"It's a challenge for a person to do their homework," he said.

He said some townspeople have asked what the Selectboard will do to assist the citizens of Windham who oppose the project. He said, however, he will not use Grafton money to meddle in another town's affairs.

The second public informational meeting is slated for Saturday, Feb. 16. Sands said each one is expected to last from 1 to 4 p.m.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.