Currents

Three Former Selectmen Offer Perspective On Turbines

Cape Cod Wave
Written by Cape Cod Wave

FALMOUTH – Town-wide controversies lasting years are nothing new for three former Falmouth selectman who have been involved in town government for decades.

With the unique perspective of having served as selectmen and remaining involved in town affairs for as long as they have, former selectmen Adrian “Andy” Dufrense, Eric Turkington, and Virginia Valiela said the turbine issue, though heated, is no more heated than several other issues the town has faced in the past three decades.

Often, these controversies are big money issues that affect specific neighborhoods, said Valiela. “There have been several really contentious issues, and each one has its own flavor. To some degree, they are site specific,” she said.

Big Decisions Made Here

Big Decisions Made Here

All three former selectmen remembered the same series of years-long controversies during their time in public life.

One issue concerning the town’s cranberry bogs  “was equally heated,” said Valiela. “I remember meetings where there were people yelling at each other, but it did finally get resolved.”

The resolution of the turbine issue will begin with the vote on Tuesday, said Turkington, who believes the turbines should come down.

“The lesson in this fiasco,” said Turkington, “is beware of the state bringing gifts. The state came in like the Music Man reporting that this was a wonderful thing for the environment, that it was beneficial for the neighborhood, that it was guaranteed income for the town, and it would save the planet as well.  It seemed too good to be true, and it was.”

“The state foisted this on us and the state has to take responsibility, and that means paying to fix it,” said Turkington. The fix has to come legislatively, he said, and he predicted the state will act once it sees guidance from voters on Tuesday. At that point, he said, the governor and state legislators must come through.

Valiela said the momentum of the turbine issue, like most of the big Falmouth issues, depended on “what does the local constituency do to frame its issue to bring in more of the community.”

On the turbine issue, she said, “There are a few things, like motherhood, that you can’t question. One of those things is that you can’t knock someone when they say, ‘I don’t feel well.’ “

“When the selectmen turned the turbines off at night, It was an important step to allow people to get a good night’s sleep,” she said. “But ultimately, there is no way to disprove things.”

She added, “There is no question the country must respond to climate change, including moving to solar and wind, and the town should be a part of that.”

Dufrense, who pointed out that he served 25 years on the finance committee, thinks it does not make any financial sense for the town to spend millions to dismantle something that is producing significant income for the town.

“I think there are other ways than taking down the turbines to satisfy the people in West Falmouth who are experiencing problems,” said Dufresne.

When the operation was altered, it already reduced the income to the town, he said. “This is going to be one of the most expensive projects should the town decide to tear them down. They were built on municipal property within the guidelines of distance.,,, The neighbors have come down with all kinds of illnesses they have not been able to prove.”

But Turkington said, “As more and more people testified that they had experienced health problems, others heard their voices and went up to investigate, and it became clear that this was not a bunch of hypochondriacs. Defenders of the wind industry say the connection between the turbines and the health problems haven’t been proven in scientific studies. Well, it will be.”

 

— Brian Tarcy

 

 

About the author

Cape Cod Wave

Cape Cod Wave

Cape Cod Wave is an online magazine covering the character and culture of Cape Cod. We feature long-form journalism, slices of Cape Cod life, scenic slide shows, and music videos of local bands playing original music.

4 Comments

  • Good luck on the new Cape website! Issue One is needlessly humble. You’re good1
    Are you planning to have a letters-to-the- editors section in future editions?

    On the Falmouth turbine issue — I read that there was a proposal to take by eminent domain
    the properties within the sound range, paying fair market value. This would be much fairer to all parties; the town coffers, the complaining neighbors, the pro-wind citizens of Falmouth, and everyone living on planet earth.

    • Mr. Bartlett,
      Could you please explain the fairness of taking, by eminent domain, the properties of the adversely impacted neighbors (who rightfully complained)?

  • Years ago, as all three former Selectmen should recall, there was Falmouth outrage about extensive pollution created by years of neglect at the Massachusetts Military Reservation. Public scrutiny, political pressure and more than $1 billion in taxpayer money restored an acceptable level of wellness to Falmouth residents over the Ashumet Valley plume.

    This saga of Falmouth’s history was much more than a sympathy issue. It became, and is remembered as an issue of community character building. It was an issue by which a community came together, stood and fought for acceptable health and living conditions for neighbors living, to a great extent, well away from the ‘majority’.

    It wasn’t until hard-hitting press exposure by local newspapers, that the military, regulators and town leaders became proactively involved in protecting neighbors and neighborhoods. The town’s sudden financial burden, at the loss of a newly commissioned town well, and the associated costs of bottled water distribution and a new water-main network, forced a community’s cohesion and singular focus, making every citizen proud. Beating back this challenge gave deeper meaning to our town’s mantra – “Isn’t Falmouth Nice.”

    Complaints from a minority of residents around Falmouth’s wind turbines share a common threat with the challenges posed by the Ashumet plume. Yet, it’s argued by some that the minority shouldn’t impede progress or burden the majority. How have we forgotten, so quickly, the value of “decency” and “basic rights” entitlement?

    A simpleton’s view would have Falmouth citizens believe that it’s not unusual for persons adversely effected by a municipal or private project to be upset. But placed in terms of health, the upset is provided a truer context.

    Whether ground water contamination or noise contamination, the issue before voters is an injustice to all in Falmouth. At issue are basic tenets of principle held dear by our “community.” Quite simply, the majority that Mr. Dufresne is espoused, do not yet realize the profound harm a “no” vote will inflict upon basic principals of community decency, and further erode residents rights to their fundamental health and enjoyment of their private properties.

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