With the possibility of the Busque quarry hearing ending next month, reflections on the long public hearing process will focus on the two resources the hearings absorbed.

Time and money.

The public hearings dominated the Windham Town Council meetings, held every other Tuesday since last April.

The town council passed a rule for the hearings to limit the time spent by limiting public questions and comments to three minutes. Members of the public were also told they could not speak more than once for each issue, much to the public’s chagrin.

Finance Director Brian Wolcott said the public hearings cost the town about $7,000 in fees to Town Attorney Kenneth Cole and a stenographer hired to transcribe what was said at the meetings.

Town Clerk Linda Morrell normally types what is said at town meetings, but she said the volume of words spoken at the hearings required the town to hire outside help.

Cole was paid $4,740 in legal fees and stenographer Jeanette Beyler received $2,327, according to Wolcott.

“I don’t have anything to compare it to, this is the first quarry application that the town has taken up in the last 10 years,” said Anthony Plante, town manager. Plante said a sandpit on River Road was approved in the summer 1996 shortly before he entered office.

Quarry applicant Peter Busque estimated that the hearings have cost him $125,000 in fees he has paid to his lawyer and the 10 different specialists.

“Plus lack of work for a year” in the quarry, said Busque.

Busque has paid nine different engineers to attend meetings to answer questions from both the town council and the public, as well as to do their calculations for his quarry proposal. This includes an engineer to design the quarry, two hydrogeologists, a graphic engineer, and five specialists to study the effects of noise, traffic and dust.

Busque did not wish to disclose the specific amounts he paid his engineers, lawyer and an appraiser he hired for the application. Nationally, engineers and lawyers can make several hundred dollars an hour.

Busque said he started bringing the engineers to the planning board meetings in August, 2005. In April the quarry application was moved to the town council meetings where he continued to bring his experts to answer questions.

Busque said the planning board required him to spend $12,000 on well water testing around the land he purchased in September for the quarry.

He also spent $15,000 on a campaign against the referendum that was created to halt his quarry project.

Windham resident Margaret Pinchbeck said she and her neighbors, known collectively as the Windham Preservation Committee, have spent $16,000 and “countless hours” on the public hearings and the referendum they attempted to pass that would have stymied the quarry.

One thousand dollars of it went to a traffic engineering, $500 to a hydrogeologist and about $200 into advertisements about the quarry, Pinchbeck said. The rest of the money went into the referendum.

Busque1: Town attorney Ken Cole and town clerk Linda Morrell at Tuesday’s town council meeting where the Busque application was discussed.Busque3: Sebago Technics engineer Charles Brown, pictured with a map of the proposed quarry, was one of the experts hired by Busque Construction for the quarry application.


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