Opponent of plan for wind power sparks discussion

Residents turned out to hear about wind energy at their town meeting Saturday morning, hearing from Karen Pease of Friends of the Highland Mountains.

“We are not anti-wind. We are for the responsible placement of wind turbines, if such a thing exists,” Pease said. “The impact to the land, wildlife and human beings who are in the sound shed of these things is turning out to be pretty scary,” she said.

Friends of the Highland Mountains oppose the proposal by Highland Wind LLC to put up about 48 wind turbines across rural Somerset County. The proposed wind power project in Highland Plantation is near, but not in, the Bigelow Preserve.

The project would industrialize eight miles of countryside, including popular hiking, biking and sightseeing destinations, Pease said.

“There’s a lot of issues health-wise,” Pease said. “Wildlife is pretty much being ignored.”

Local people are also unsure of the benefits. The energy produced by the turbines would mostly go out of state, according to Pease.

“It sounds like a good idea at first,” said Jason Biel, who works as an apprentice at a Brighton farm. “I always thought wind energy was a good idea, but I guess it’s a different story when it’s in your own backyard.”

Jo-Ann Gooridge kept her seat as first selectman. Paul Keaton barely held on to his second selectman position against Louis Johnson Jr. in an 18-15 vote. Johnson was then elected third selectman and animal control officer, with a pay increase from $50 to $250.

Voters also decided not to take an aging water tanker from the Athens Fire Department to be used as a first response against fires in the area. Residents decided to table the issue and asked the selectman to look into options at a later date.

– Morning Sentinel


Voters OK action on barking dogs, funds for constable

Barking dogs and public safety garnered significant attention when residents gathered for town meeting on Saturday at Hall-Dale High School.

Roughly 60 voters approved a municipal budget of more than $1 million and several ordinance updates. Spending is down more than $30,000 from last year.

Residents debated a new dog-control ordinance that allows animal control to respond to a complaint if a dog has been barking for more than 20 minutes. Voters rejected a motion to lift the 20-minute rule between the hours of 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., and passed the ordinance as written.

“There are issues in town where people are truly negligent with their animals and it hurts other peoples’ lives,” Chief Constable Jeff Ellis said. “This ordinance gives me the authority to address them.”

The only change voters made came in funding for constable services. Ellis requested $22,600 to provide coverage seven days a week for two hours per day. Selectmen recommended a $16,600 budget that would include coverage three days a week.

Ellis said cutting the funding would force him to reduce his officers from four to three. His department would no longer be able to respond to complaints about wild animals.

“All I’m asking from the taxpayers of Farmingdale is business as usual,” Ellis said.

Voters, many of whom said they felt safer having a local constable patrolling regularly, restored the full $22,600 Ellis initially requested.

Three other ordinance changes that will, among other things, keep residents who are behind on paying property taxes from getting building permits, drew little discussion.

Voters also agreed, after asking several questions, to switch the town’s fiscal year from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, to one that will begin July 1 and end June 30.

State law allows selectmen to make the switch without voter approval, but Selectman Eugene Moreau said the board wanted the town’s blessing.

The switch will bring Farmingdale in line with the county and school system and allow selectmen to better manage the budget, Moreau said.

“It really should be done to get us in tune with all the other municipalities we’re working with,” Moreau said.

– Kennebec Journal


Turbine moratorium rejected, spending requests approved

Voters at Saturday’s town meeting passed a $889,494 municipal budget, approving all but one of 37 articles on the warrant.

About 70 people attended the annual meeting, held at Unity Elementary School.

The only request voters turned down at Saturday’s meeting, which lasted more than three hours, was an article to enact a moratorium on wind turbines more than 35 feet tall.

Selectwoman Maggie Wilcox said officials wanted to get an ordinance in place to protect the town until a more permanent ordinance could be developed for next year. Maine Municipal Association officials recommended the wording of the article as a guideline for the town, she said.

Selectman James P. Kenney said he didn’t think the article would prevent anyone from putting up a windmill on his own property.

“A homeowner has the right to use his property in good purpose for themselves,” he said.

Others said the article could be better worded and returned to voters for approval at a special meeting.

Kenney’s wife, Josephine, an attorney, said she was concerned about the article as it was written.

“It sounds to me like the ordinance was written a little bit over-broad,” she said.

In other matters, voters approved giving a total of $8,515 to several groups and agencies, including $2,000 for Dorothy Webb Quimby Library; $2,000 for the Volunteer Regional Food Pantry; and $1,500 for Kno-Wal-Lin Home Care. The budget committee recommended giving that agency only $1,000, but residents Saturday voted to increase the amount by $500.

Some voters questioned why a request from Waldo Community Action Partners (WCAP) was not included on Saturday’s warrant.

“I would like to see these things put in the warrant so people can actually have a vote – to have a chance to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ on it,” said Linda Constable.

But James Kenney said the list of requests and the amount of money requested each year continues to increase and selectmen’s goal was to bring to the budget committee as small an increase as possible in the proposed budget.

Edward Murphy, transportation director for WCAP, said the organization will not stop serving Unity, but some services may be limited or cut.

WCAP provided $411,000 worth of services to Unity residents, serving 180 households and more than 300 people, Murphy said.

“I’m really disappointed the article isn’t on the ballot, because it is the best bang for your dollar,” he said.

The budget that voters approved Saturday did not include school or county spending, according to Town Clerk Susan Lombard.

She said town officials do not yet know if the current tax rate of $14.40 per $1,000 worth of valuation will increase.

The budget approved Saturday is slightly higher than the 2009 municipal budget of $885,738.

– Morning Sentinel


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