Wind moratorium extended 6 months; board to gauge town on library project

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RUMFORD — Selectmen at Thursday night’s meeting extended a six-month moratorium on wind-power projects for another six months, to give their Wind Power Advisory Committee more time to complete an ordinance regulating such projects.

The board also voted 3 to 2 to have Town Manager Carlo Puiia — with help from town lawyer Thomas Carey — draft language to place before town meeting voters in June seeking direction on whether residents want the library moved to the old Stephens High School site and a new library built around it, renovated where it stands, or to continue upgrading it with repairs when money is available.

Both topics drew considerable discussions, both on topic and off, prompting selectmen to cut short passionate debate.

At first, selectmen appeared not to want to discuss extending the moratorium, which was approved by special town meeting voters on Dec. 3 and expires on June 3.

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After Chairman Brad Adley read the agenda item — “Request to extend wind power moratorium” — Selectman Mark Belanger immediately motioned to table it, to which Selectman Greg Buccina objected.

Then former selectman Jim Thibodeau promptly asked for an explanation. Belanger said that it should be tabled until after selectmen meet with wind-power developer First Wind of Massachusetts, which, prior to enactment of the moratorium, proposed to site wind turbines atop Rumford mountains.

Thibodeau then argued that selectmen shouldn’t be placing a wind-power developer before the residents of the town.

“It would be a grave injustice if you people don’t extend the moratorium,” Thibodeau said. “Don’t you work for the citizens and not First Wind?”

“You’re placing First Wind in first position rather than the citizens and I’m buffaloed by this proposition.”

Adley assured Thibodeau the board would act on the matter before the moratorium expires, but then committee member Roger Arsenault said there would not be enough time for citizens to petition to counter the board’s decision should they not vote to extend the moratorium.

Buccina, also a member of the committee, said if he thought the board was going to vote not to extend the moratorium, the committee would have held more meetings to get the ordinance ready for vote in June.

As it is now, Buccina said it won’t be ready until November elections. After more discussion, selectmen voted 3-2 against tabling discussion, and then voted 4-1 to extend it by six months. Selectman Frank DiConzo was the lone dissenter.

On the library issue, selectmen voted at their previous meeting not to seek financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to possibly move the library in a $3.2 million project. The majority objected saying they weren’t willing to burden taxpayers with a $1 million taxpayer-funded loan that would accompany a possible $1 million grant.

At Thursday night’s meeting, the issue was to gauge public interest on what to do about the library, which has 10 code violations levied against it by the state. But the majority of discussion, primarily from the Library Growth Committee, which lobbied for the board’s consent to pursue financial help to move the library, was to have selectmen reconsider that previous vote.

A majority of selectmen, however, refused to listen and give the growth committee until November to convince the public that the library should be moved, and that selectmen should pursue currently available federal funding.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

Rumford Town Manager Carlo Puiia, right, reacts at Thursday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting after Selectman Jeff Sterling and selectmen surprised Puiia with 15 frosted chocolate cupcakes while recognizing Puiia’s 50th birthday on Friday, April 16.

Former longtime Rumford selectman Jim Thibodeau tries to convince selectmen at Thursday night’s meeting to not table a request to extend the current six-month moratorium on wind power projects. Eventually, selectmen agreed not to do so by a 4-1 vote after a 3-2 vote defeated the motion to table it.

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