RUMFORD — Selectmen have voted unanimously to form an eight-member Wind Power Committee and have appointed seven people to it.
Four appointees, all of whom applied for spots on the committee, are residents Peter Buotte Jr., J. Arthur Boivin, Charlie Hoff and Roger Arsenault. They will join Board of Selectmen Chairman Brad Adley, Selectman Greg Buccina and Town Manager Carlo Puiia. The eighth member will be a planner chosen by the Planning Board at its next meeting in December, Puiia said.
Discussion on the new committee began Monday night when Selectman Frank DiConzo ranted unexpectedly at the public for its apparent lack of interest in serving on the committee. He said he had only received five applications from people wanting to serve on the committee, all of whom offered no reason for doing so.
"I'm very disappointed in the amount of people who put in for this committee, and this after such an uproar for wind power that has come about," he said.
DiConzo said he believed the lack of interest stemmed from misconceptions about the task given to the board's committee.
"I believe there is a perception brewing that it's going to be a war, but the idea behind it is to educate the community and not to create an ordinance with the pros and cons," he said, referring to people who are for or against wind power in town.
"It sounds like people are running scared because the wrong message has been set by both sides," DiConzo said. "Well, we're not going to make everyone happy."
He said the committee's purpose would be to research wind power issues pertaining to Rumford and then educate selectmen and the public.
"I didn't apply because I'm on an education committee already," former town manager Len Greaney said, referring to the citizen group, Wind Power Education Committee.
The citizen group formed a few months ago to educate itself and the public about wind power issues on the belief that Boston-based wind power developer First Wind was about to push through a wind farm project atop Black Mountain and North and South Twin mountains.
But the company recently revealed it is nowhere close to erecting turbines and may not even go through with its plan.
To block it, the Wind Power Education Committee hastily put together a petition calling for a 180-day moratorium on wind power development and asked selectmen to call a special town meeting to let the public vote on the matter.
Selectmen said no emergency existed to call a special town meeting and denied the petition, but the citizen group gathered the necessary signatures and overrode the board's decision.
Selectmen, however, have yet to schedule a public hearing and special town meeting on the matter.
Even after DiConzo identified the goal of the selectmen's Wind Power Committee, which won't have any voting power, Selectman Robert Cameron said he didn't understand its purpose.
"It's to educate the public and come back to us if we need an ordinance," Selectman Mark Belanger said.
A motion by Buccina — upon request of the citizens' Wind Power Education Committee — to convene a workshop between the two committees to share research failed due to lack of a second.
Based on discussions between selectmen and citizens' group members Greaney and Roger Arsenault, it appeared that selectmen wanted to distance themselves from the Wind Power Education Committee, which they constantly referred to as the "old" committee.
"The sole purpose of our committee is to educate the public," Buccina said to Arsenault's repeated requests for a workshop at the new committee's first meeting.