What’s going on in Sumner?
On Tuesday night, longtime Selectman Mark Silber resigned his post.
He had been a selectmen for a steady 29 years.
Seven weeks ago, longtime Selectman Glenn Hinkley resigned his post.
He had served the town in various capacities for the past 40 years.
Both men carried out their public service with grace and a great sense of responsibility.
And, both, it seems, succumbed to the rancor of the wind power debate raging in their town as they endured painful and false accusations of — among other things — taking bribes from industrial wind contractors.
There are fewer than 900 people living in this scenic Oxford County town, and they are certainly not the first group to confront the issue of regulating — or not — wind power construction within their home borders.
They may be, though, the most thorough in examining the issue.
There are 11 members on the town’s Industrial Wind Ordinance Committee. These members also serve on six subcommittees: economics, environmental, informational/communications, legal, health and safety.
They have amassed an impressive amount of information, making the notable effort to post the information on a searchable website and inviting locals to post comments on the committee’s Facebook page.
Part of that invitation includes — in writing — a genuine hope “that there can be open and respectful dialogue” concerning the work that the wind ordinance committee is doing for the town and its people.
Dialogue has certainly been open, but it has not been overwhelmingly respectful.
In fact, it’s been quite the opposite, enough so that two respected men with a shared 69 years of public service quit rather than continue the dialogue.
It is beyond unfortunate that, according to one town official, “unfounded personal attacks have affected the operation of the town, and the continuity of its business.”
In Sumner, at least when it comes to regulating wind power, tranquility and harmony have been set aside in favor of political bullying and personal barbs.
That environment can’t be good for setting public policy.
In the shadow of Hinkley’s resignation from the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board Chairman Dan Perron has been elected as his replacement. Perron will have to step down from the Planning Board, and he’ll also have to resign as chairman of the Industrial Wind Ordinance Committee.
Perron’s unbiased presence as chairman of the wind committee was welcome there, and will be welcome as he is seated as a selectman. It will be essential, if this committee intends to make any progress, to seat an equally unbiased leader.
It will also be essential for the war of words to end.
At the annual town meeting in June, voters enacted a 180-day moratorium on industrial wind power development, giving them time to craft a wind power ordinance. Without such an ordinance on the books, they have a legitimate fear that industrial wind companies could move in and build without the protection of regulations.
So, while voters recognize and value the importance of an ordinance and support enacting regulations, it’s important for neighbors not to rip each other apart in the process of creating the very ordinance they hope will protect their town.
What’s left to protect if municipal kinship is destroyed?
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.