RUMFORD — Selectmen learned at Thursday night's meeting that a Massachusetts-based wind developer has retooled its project to erect 12 of 19 wind turbines on town mountains. The other seven are proposed for siting in Roxbury.
Additionally, if the First Wind project is approved in Rumford, the town would realize a currently estimated increased valuation of $65 million.
Chairman Brad Adley set the rules for discussion, telling about 40 people in the audience that selectmen would not take any public comment. He said the only discussion would be between the board and First Wind project manager Neil Kiely.
Kiely then briefed past work by the company to determine if it was feasible to erect wind towers on Black Mountain and adjacent North and South Twin mountains.
Last year, after learning that the intensity of wind blowing atop these peaks rendered their project as initially designed unfeasible due to the wind turbines they had pre-selected, First Wind killed the project.
Since then, Kiely said they've resolved those difficulties and have reactivated the development.
However, he said he could not reveal any plans due to Rumford's current moratorium on wind power until the town can enact an ordinance to regulate it.
Initially, the town OK'd a six-month moratorium and recently extended it another six months to enable the board's Wind Power Advisory Committee to finish drafting the ordinance.
That will soon be completed and is expected to go before voters at the November elections, following a series of public hearings.
Kiely said that until the town either adopts an ordinance or votes it down, First Wind can't present its project until it knows what the town will allow or not allow.
However, he did provide an overview of the project.
“Right now, we're looking at a 19-turbine project, with 12 turbines potentially installed in the town of Rumford,” Kiely said. “I don't see that number growing under any scenario.”
He then spoke about the potential economic impact of such a project based on estimates from consultants.
“Based on 12 turbines and related equipment and assets, I've been informed that it will be in the range of $65 million,” Kiely said.
He then said the company would seek tax increment financing from Rumford for the project.
Kiely also said First Wind would provide an annual community fund benefit to Rumford per state law of $50,000. He said the town and First Wind would work together to determine how that money would be spent.
Additionally, he said that the town and state would reap a short-term economic benefit during construction. Using figures from First Wind's Stetson Mountain project completed this spring, he said the company spent $50 million in Maine.
He also invited the board, public and residents to tour the Stetson project at a date to be later determined.
“We're hopeful that we can work with the town to find a solution that works for both of us,” Kiely said.
Selectmen then discussed among themselves where they are at in the ordinance development process. After which, Kiely asked that First Wind be allowed to help in the process by providing information and feedback.