RUMFORD — Residents of the River Valley area will have a chance to learn both sides of the wind energy issue at a public debate set for Feb. 4 at Dirigo High School.

Linda Walbridge, head of the Western Maine Economic Development Council for Community Concepts, told the River Valley Growth Council board Tuesday night that information and misinformation has been floating around the area for months on the potential adverse and positive effects of such energy.

“We want to get the facts out there,” she said.

The debate will feature three experts on each side of the question. She said sound and electrical experts will be among the panelists.

The debate will begin at 6 p.m. in the community room of the high school, and is expected to last about 90 minutes.

The debate is sponsored by the Western Maine Economic Development Council, the Western Maine Alliance, the Franklin County Development Corp., and the River Valley Growth Council.

Several River Valley towns, including Roxbury, Rumford, Dixfield and Carthage have proposed wind turbine projects in various states of progress.

Also Wednesday night, the growth council supported a proposal by Walbridge and Mike McClellen, Maine director of the Fast Forward Main Street Project, to boost the local economy in Rumford and Mexico.

Plans are to establish a 10-15 member leadership committee to work with 30 local businesses over a two-year period.

The Maine project, which is in Rumford and Mexico, is scheduled to begin in February. The local project is one of four nationwide that will be grant-supported to help improve the local economy.

“This is a great opportunity for the state of Maine,” McClellen said.

Walbridge said the program began with the near-destruction of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Although the Rumford/Mexico area has not experienced such a single disastrous event, she said the area has experienced a steady downward spiral.

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