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Thursday, April 19, 2012

An alternative "Kill Bill" narrative

One that I think is better supported by the facts
Target of trumped-up charges?

by Tom Ferrio

The CCA has now trumpeted Maureen Areglado's comments at the April 9 Town Council meeting (here), making it clear this is part of a CCA-driven campaign to oust Town Administrator Bill DiLibero. Will dissected Ms. Areglado's "facts" here, but facts no longer seem to be relevant. It's all about hammering home a narrative despite the facts.

Ms. Areglado's talk April 9 made it clear to me that this campaign would not let up no matter how much scorched earth results. That got me looking back over the timeline and documents to come to my conclusion about the leading issue in this campaign: the suggested wind turbines at Ninigret Park.

Now that CCA has three "fire" votes it hardly seems to matter, but I feel obligated to show how far from the truth their narrative seems to be.

In the beginning

In late 2010, the Ninigret municipal turbine project was only a working idea, lacking data on the amount of wind and the grid interconnect cost. Either of those could be showstoppers. Some funding was acquired for the met tower, but NGrid would want several thousand dollars to do the interconnect engineering study. Still, they had a grant, so Jeff Broadhead, Executive Director of the Washington County Regional Planning Council, was pushing ahead as well as he could.

DiLibero was being told by the Council to work on this, so he spent time on the part he could – where to locate the turbines. The original municipal turbine proposal showed the wind turbines on the town-owned 55 acres. DiLibero could see the pushback from Arnolda neighbors in the Council meetings, and he concluded that it would stop the project unless something could be done.

Arnolda anger mitigation

Because of that, DiLibero had the idea of placing them as far from Arnolda as possible, near the property line with the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge. He did his research of the deeds and knew there were two properties and that there were restrictions on the property near the NWR. So he proactively started exploring how serious those objections would be. This resulted in a telephone call with Elyse LaForest of the Boston National Parks Service office, followed by confirming letters.

She turned down the idea of turbines near the Wildlife Refuge, but DiLibero wanted to make sure everyone was uniform in this opinion. The Westerly Sun and Council minutes have reported that DiLibero had a couple of discussions with Charlie Vandemoer, our National Wildlife Refuge manager, in January and February.

Back to alternative #1

The discussions with Vandemoer confirmed that wind turbines near the Wildlife Refuge were a no-go, so Bill concluded the project was effectively dead. I have good reason to suspect that Bill discussed this with Gentz and was encouraged to continue nonetheless. So that meant moving the proposed location for the turbines back to the 55 acres. Although Arnolda opposition could easily scupper it there, it was the only choice. And there were still the unknowns of sufficient wind and interconnect cost which could also kill it.

Meaningful meeting!

On March 8, 2011, there was a meeting to discuss Ninigret Park wind turbines. Attendees were Charlie Vandemoer, Jeff Broadhead, Bill DiLibero, Tom Gentz, and Gregg Avedesian. There have been no reports from that meeting of any hostility or threats to "take Ninigret Park away from the town" at this meeting. As reported here (starting at the bottom of the first page), the  meeting was an amiable one talking about ways to minimize harm to birds and bats. The turbines were clearly shown to be on the town-owned 55 acres at this meeting.

A week later, the Town Council adopted a moratorium that effectively ended the Ninigret Park municipal wind turbine project.

The end (in much less than a year)

That's the story, as I see it.

Now we are told that DiLibero recklessly endangered the town's ownership of Ninigret Park and "hid documents for a year."

I don't see the reckless endangerment. It's clearly invented.

I don't see support for a claim of hidden documents. DiLibero suggested a location option that didn't work out and didn't realize every piece of paper he sees has to go to Slattery. After the notification from Elyse LaForest and follow-up discussion with Vandemoer, there was no further suggestion of using the property near the Refuge for wind turbines.

And if Gentz claims he knew nothing about all this I suspect it is a convenient loss of memory.

This is part of a campaign. Staff is being slapped down across the board. Commissions are being bypassed and neutered (see the first comment on that article). A Town Administrator not part of CCA must go. This is all about a consolidation of power, one that does nothing to benefit the vast majority of working and retired families in town.