Wednesday February 20, 2013

GRAFTON -- Residents at this year’s Town Meeting will have their voices heard about a multi-national corporation’s plans to construct a meterological-testing tower in town.

Iberdrola Renewables, operating as Atlantic Wind LLC, is one of the world’s largest energy companies and received permits to erect three test towers -- two in Windham and one in Grafton on land owned by New Hampshire-based Meadowsend Timberlands Limited. The towers could be a precursor to Windham County’s first commercial wind turbines, depending on the weather data they produce.

Article 3 of the Town Warrant will ask residents if the Grafton Selectboard can continue conversations with Meadowsend Timber and Atlantic Wind for the purpose of collecting information to share with voters.

"Once the (meterological-testing) tower data has been collected, a potential effect on Grafton has been reviewed," the article reads, "the voters of Grafton will hold a non-binding vote to accept or deny the proposed project. The outcome of that vote will be sent to the Public Service Board."

The tower has been a subject of controversy in Grafton, as many residents do not feel wind turbines are appropriate for the town. The Friends of Grafton’s Heritage, led by resident Liisa Kissel, is one group adamantly opposed to the whole project, insisting it does not make any economic sense.

"It provides very little effective energy and it is very expensive -- both in terms of the money and the environmental destruction," Kissel previously told the Reformer.


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However, Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman said the company wants more dialogue with the town.

Article 4 of this year’s Town Warrant asks if the town should vote on any issue regarding commercial wind energy production facility(ies) project or the regulation of such by Australian ballot.

The Friends of Grafton’s Heritage had attempted to get another article into the Town Warrant but the Selectboard chose not to include it because it was "written incorrectly."

According to Kissel, the submitted text read, "Shall the town prohibit large-scale industrial wind installations in Grafton?"

In a statement e-mailed to the Reformer, Grafton Selectboard Chairman Al Sands said the board was informed by the town attorney and legal counsel for the Vermont League of Cities and Towns that the article as written, if approved, would ask the town to do something it does not have jurisdiction to do.

Selectboard members, therefore, decided to reject it instead of making it a binding or non-binding article.

Article 5 asks residents to vote to raise $139,000 for the capital budget ($97,000 for equipment, $20,000 for the roadway program, $5,000 for highway structures, $12,000 for a fire truck and $5,000 for guardrails. Approval of Article 6 would raise $478,758 for the maintenance of highways and bridges.

Article 7 seeks to generate $208,318 for the Selectboard’s budget while Article 8 asks voters to approve of $9,000 for ambulance services. Article asks residents if they are willing to raise $23,000 for the Grafton Firefighters Association’s operating expenses and $8,000 would be raised for those of the Grafton Rescue Squad if $8,000 is approved.

Approval of Article 13 would give the town school directors and the Athens/Grafton Joint Contract School District Directors, respectively, to borrow money if necessary for current expenses in anticipation of a collection of taxes.

If Article 14 is approved, the town school district will approve the Athens/Grafton Joint Contract School District budget of $1,461,890 (including $500 for each school director) for kindergarten through sixth grade. Article 15 asks the town school district to raise and appropriate $1,047,017 for the education of its students in kindergarten through eighth grade (including $750 for the town treasurer) for the period of July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.