Wind farm developer offers $120,000 to save teaching jobs

WOODSTOCK — A Massachusetts-based wind developer announced early Friday evening that it has offered to donate $120,000 to SAD 44 to save three teaching jobs at Woodstock Elementary School.

Todd Presson, chief operations officer of Patriot Renewables LLC in Quincy, confirmed the gift but was unsure of the process that either the school district or town must go through to use the money as intended.

“We had been looking for ways for a while now at becoming part of the community of Woodstock, where we've been for a couple of years developing (a wind farm)," Presson said.

On Oct. 5, 2010, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection approved a land-use permit for Patriot Renewables to build 10 wind turbines and the necessary power lines and access roads along the ridgeline of Spruce Mountain.

Presson said the project coordinator, Tom Carroll, attended a few meetings of the school's Parents-Teachers Association, and asked if there was anything the company could do to work with the community.

“One of the PTA members looked at him — and this was in the middle of the budget stress they were having — and said, 'Do you have $120,000?'” he said.

“Tom wasn't able to say yes or no at that point, but we thought about it and we'd be happy to help out, basically, if we can go forward with our wind project for Woodstock this spring,” Presson said.

He said the company has money budgeted and allocated for legal challenges.

“As long as we don't have any further legal challenges, we can use that money to help the school out, but it sounds like something we should be behind and we'd like to be behind,” Presson said.

He said that on Feb. 4, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection denied an appeal by Friends of Spruce Mountain against approval of Patriot's estimated $37 million Spruce Mountain Project.

By the end of next week, a 30-day period to appeal that decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court expires, Presson said.

David Murphy, SAD 44 superintendent, declined comment Friday evening on the donation, saying he hadn't been aware of it.

But Linda Walbridge, director of the Western Maine Economic Development Council in Paris, said the money would save three teaching jobs cut earlier this year.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

The risks of this wind thing

The risks of this wind thing is becoming so apparent now. King and Gardiner desperately seeking the last avenue of funding available, a government loan guarantee, to save their Roxbury project.
Investors continue to shy away from wind, electing safer, long term and proven investments.
Grid operators exclaiming they are not prepared to accommodate wind and it will take mega-dollars from the ratepayer for required provisions.
Bribery from developers as more people are taking notice of the bad idea of wind.
Any town with notions of attaching town service investment to this wind investment had better start thinking " RISKS' The economic welfare of the community is at stake.
I would recommend each and every town appoint a committee to thoughtfully examine the potential economic risks with these projects. During this economic downturn is not the time to have a " bubble " bursting in our faces.

Alan Michka's picture

Making a deal with the devil.

Bribery, blackmail, a deal with the devil - call it what you like. Let's hope most people in rural Maine have not reached this point. Rural Mainers, if you have any pride, don't make yourself beholden to unscrupulous wind developers like Patriot Renewables. What ever happened to good old self-sufficiency?

Mr. Whitman, if you believe that windmills on your local mountains will change imports of oil from Saudi Arabia, you've been misinformed. Additionally, what Presson hasn't told you is that it's YOUR $120,000 they're bribing you with. The tab for a minimum of 30% of Patriot Renewables project expenditures are picked up by the American taxpayer, me and you. When they get TIFs, Maine property taxpayers are shelling in even more on top of that. THAT'S the money he's promising you.

FACT: New England produced less than 1% (0.7% to be exact) of its electricity with oil in 2009, according to ISO-New England, and the number continues to trend downward. The idea that Maine is going to be able to swear off heating oil with mountaintop wind turbines doesn't even survive the simplest mathematics.

We shouldn't be pursuing small benefits by inflicting big damage. Let's not sell Maine down the river for a few quick bucks and a handful of false promises.

 's picture

The High Cost of Wind

Wow.

Wow.

Here we see it, in print and online... proof of bribery.

In essence, this is the deal: IF Patriot Renewables is allowed to build their wind project on Spruce Mountain, and IF they don't have to spend any more money on legal fees fighting appeals of their permit, then they will donate $120,000.00 to 'save' three teaching positions. For one year. What heroes.

But what happens then? After that $120,000.00 is spent? Will the developer commit to saving those three teaching positions for the life of their project? Say... for the next 20 years? Highly doubtful. And in all reality, Patriot Renewables won't be the owners of this project for more than a few years before they sell out to a larger energy company. Ask them straight up, and see what they say. Watch their eyes, their posture, when you ask. They are not in this to be good, long-term 'neighbors'. They are in this because it's a 'get rich quick' scheme paid for by our tax dollars. Let's take THOSE to save our schools.

I'm sorry, but this is sick and shameful. I don't believe that the good people of Woodstock would even consider taking this bribe. What this company is doing is so obvious-- pitting neighbor against neighbor. For will there not be a few who are woo'ed by this offer who try to urge those who are opposed to the wind development to cease their opposition? The company is surely hoping citizens will try to coerce the wind facility's opponents into stopping their appeal--laying the blame for those lost teaching positions squarely at their feet. I hope the folks of Woodstock will see this for what it is-- and rise above it.

Similar things have happened at other wind developments-- Vinalhaven, for example. George Baker has publicly laid the blame squarely on those 'few' on the island who are suffering from the excessive turbine noise if any loss of electricity (and higher electric bills for islanders, because of it) results if Fox Island Wind is forced to comply with the DEP noise standards. It takes moxie to stand toe-to-toe with powerful corporate interests. It takes pluck to say 'no' to bribes and coersion. It takes courage to oppose a scheme which is touted as being 'green' and good for the economy.

Science and economics--sound science and economics-- numbers produced by unbiased experts with no stake in industrial wind, tell us that developing our mountain ridges for an undependable, intermittent and very expensive energy source is a colossal mistake. Wind will not 'get us off foreign oil'. However, we WILL have Maine's very wind owned by foreign companies such as Iberdrola, a Spanish and United Arab Emirates conglomerate. Or First Wind, which has as some of its excutives men who were arrested due to suspicions of having ties to the Italian mob and bilking the government of millions in wind subsidies. Other FW executives were formerly employed by Enron.

It's time to take a stand. If you don't have the facts about this wind plan at your disposal, they are easy to obtain. If you need help to begin your education into this very important topic, feel free to email highlandmts@gmail.com. We will give you access to links, books, experts--and we can connect you to folks here in Maine who are already living in the shadow of industrial wind.

Mainers don't cotton to being bribed. And Mainers are known for standing up to do what's right. I hope the good people of Maine will look wind developers in the eye, say 'No, thank you' to their bribes, and show them the way to the Kittery Bridge.

Karen Pease
Lexington Twp., Maine

 's picture

bribery

Preston knows western Mainers have no money. His company uses our tax dollars to fight legal battles.
LET'S SEE.
Our tax dollars buy the turbines.
The power goes out of state.
Our rates triple.
Not good business.
Spruce Mountain will never be the same.Wildlife is fragmented.
and no carbon foot print displaced.
They will turn down turbines at night because of noise problems.
Not enough power made to pay for these things. No oil displaced.

Someday we will pay dearly for this wind power mistAKE.

 's picture

Ray, What makes the

Ray,
What makes the " tinge of blackmail " even worse is the fact that the money is from us, the taxpayers and the ratepayers.

RAYMOND FRECHETTE's picture

While very generous, there

While very generous, there seems too be a tinge of blackmail here.

Alan Woods's picture

Misuse of terms charity and generosity

Ray, I agree. This is nothing less than a bribe. But I would not call it generous. Generous would be if they provided the money without expecting anything in return (much less asking for it!). Also, as the article points out, the company claims to have this money set aside for legal challenges anyway. It's not like they're digging deep into their pockets to come up with the money (which, as others have pointed out, is OUR tax money). They have done a quick cost/benefit analysis and decided that using these funds in this way would provide them with a net gain. That's not generosity.

Nor is it charity. True charity means you get nothing in return, not even recognition. Not only do they want the community's acquescence in return, I'd bet they were the ones that provided this story to the press.

Here's an idea: take the money and hire three teachers who will teach our children the TRUTH about wind energy.

Alan Woods's picture

Misuse of terms charoty and generosity

Ray, I agree. This is nothing less than a bribe. But I would not call it generous. Generous would be if they provided the money without expecting anything in return (much less asking for it!). Also, as the article points out, the company claims to have this money set aside for legal challenges anyway. It's not like they're digging deep into their pockets to come up with the money (which, as others have pointed out, is OUR tax money). They have done a quick cost/benefit analysis and decided that using these funds in this way would provide them with a net gain. That's not generosity.

Nor is it charity. True charity means you get nothing in return, not even recognition. Not only do they want the community's acquescence in return, I'd bet they were the ones that provided this story to the press.

Here's an idea: take the money and hire three teachers who will teach our children the TRUTH about wind energy.

 's picture

Bill I sense you will be

Bill
I sense you will be buying an electric car soon and attaching your charging system to a windmill. Let me know how that works out. Ill probably wait for the natural gas glut to kick in soon to offset oil. Electricity, well nuclear has so many advantages over wind, even the French can see it..............Dan

 's picture

pride goeth before a fall

if giving up my pride and my good old down home self reliance meant we didn't have to ship in another 500,000 more barrels of saudi arabian oil, i'd do it in a heartbeat. all these people that complain about the looks of a windfarm didn't say boo when they started throwing up those ugly cell phone towers. how many gallons of oil are those going to save? where were all the complainers about how ugly they look? and all the people that complain about the horrendous noise wind turbines make better be willing to get rid of their snowmobiles and atvs. how many gallons of oil are those saving and i haven't heard one yet that makes less noise than a wind turbine. it's too bad we couldn't turn all this whining into energy to power our cars and houses. we'd be off oil tomorrow.

 's picture

Where have our values gone ?

Where have our values gone ? Woodstock, along with all the towns in the Western Maine foothills, is poor , but proud. Our tradition of strength through self-reliance, our practicality, our facility to help one another in rough times is under question here and the consequences of forsaking our values will hurt us big time.
In practical terms, the Woodstock School is part of RSU 44 ( Andover, Bethel, Greenwood, Newry, Woodstock ). Studies by the School Board show current costs of keeping the Woodstock School in operation exceeds costs of centralizing enrollment. Thinking a one time gift from people residing nowhere near Woodstock and with absolutely no relationship to local education will change the results of the School Board study is very wishful. Enticing as this money seems, it is short term, while the school will continue to impact budgets in the years ahead. This is not a practical way to save the school and teaches the children values can be bought.
This will have immediate risks to the school. How many in Woodstock will pull their children out of the Woodstock School, as they assuredly will do, to make it known they won't allow their values to be compromised and their child will move ahead learning self-reliance, practicality, and the ability to stand together to forsake the evils of greed.

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