FALMOUTH – Falmouth voters said a resounding “no” to taking down the two municipal wind turbines tonight in a town election that drew 40 percent of voters.
The vote was 2,940 in support of taking down the turbines and 6,001 against taking the machines down.
The turbine issue, which was Question 2 on the ballot, has been the subject of enormous controversy for the past four years. Neighbors who live near the turbines say the noise and vibrations make them ill and cause insomnia.
After trying to mediate the issue, Falmouth Selectmen last month voted to ask Town Meeting for approval to remove the turbines. The question needed to garner two-thirds in favor and failed by just a few votes.
But Town Meeting did agree to place the item on the ballot for today’s town-wide vote.
The cost of the removal plus paying back state funds used to install them is estimated to be about $25 million and would require a Proposition 2 ½ override.
Tonight one of the neighbors who lives near the turbines and wants them removed, Annie Hart Cool, said that from her point of view, this is not the end of the issue.
“This is just a vote about money. The turbines will come down. We’ll have to find other ways. This was not about green energy. It was about neighbors and health and caring for the community. The turbines will still come down. It’s just going to take time to get there,” she said.
She added, “There was a lot of misinformation out there. It’s going to work out. I know it will.”
Other big news coming out of the election was strong support for Question 1, by similar margins as the defeat of Question 2. The vote was 5,094 in favor and 3,646 opposed to raising the tax levy by means of Proposition 2 ½ to pay $9 million for several projects meant to improve water quality: upgrading the wastewater treatment plant, widening Bournes Pond, sewering the area near Little Pond, and designing a water filtration system for the town’s main water supply at Long Pond.
The other closely watched election result was the race for selectman. Five candidates were competing for two seats. Longtime incumbent Mary “Pat” Flynn was the high vote getter with 4,568 votes. Rebecca Moffitt, a former school committee chairman, was second with 3,540.
The three other candidates were Marc Finneran (3,246), Sheryl Kozens-Long (2,595), and David Moriarty (1,536).
After the results were announced, Mr. Finneran, who has been a vocal critic of town hall, said he was disappointed and he did not rule out a run in the future.
He noted that he won Precinct 7 and only lost to Moffitt by 296 votes.
“It was an uphill battle all the way,” Finneran said. “Everything was stacked against me.”
He said he had not originally planned to run but people he knew encouraged him. He called the results, “business as usual.”
He said he put a lot into the race and was tired. “I’m going to sleep for two days,” he said.
Finneran also expressed disappointment at the results of the ballot questions. “That’s a disgrace,” he said. He said he was especially upset with the vote for Question 1. “This town is just silly. We fight over nickels and we spend $50 million on things that aren’t necessary,” he said, referring to the filtration plant.
Falmouth Town Clerk Michael Palmer, who fielded questions from a New York Times reporter about the turbine issue earlier in the evening, said the big difference with this election was that people spent a couple thousand dollars campaigning about the ballot questions with signs and advertising.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen that much money spent on questions,” he said.
As for election day, he said there were no major issues.
“There were a lot of people, a lot of signs and a lot of people holding signs,” he said.
The 40 percent turnout was the highest he could recall for a recent town election.
The big issues on the ballot—wind, wastewater and the Pilgrim Power Plant—were what drew Dave Hulburt to the polls. Hulburt was the last person to vote at Precinct 1 in Town Hall, at ten minutes past 8 PM, as dozens of people gathered outside the town clerk’s office, awaiting the results.
The results from Precinct 1 were the first to come in and Palmer noted the large margins in favor of Question 1 and against Question 2, in a first sign of how the election numbers would fall. Precinct 1, which typically has a high turnout, delivered 50 percent of voters to the polls.
Question 2 failed in Precinct 6, which includes a neighborhood near the turbines,
Down the street from town hall, at Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, Rebecca Moffitt said of her win, “I’m absolutely thrilled. We worked hard.”
Moffitt said she agreed with both the ballot question votes.
On the turbine issue, she said, “There has to be compromise.” And, referring to the neighbors, she added, “You need to take care of the people up there.”
Mary “Pat” Flynn, who at age 79 has won her sixth term, said, she was delighted to win and to be the top vote-getter.
On the turbine issue, she said, “Im not really surprised by the vote. A lot of people in town are really committed to wind energy and renewable energy. It doesn’t mean they don’t care about the neighbors. It means we have to come up with another plan.”
Now that the town has spoken, Flynn said, selectmen can look at other options and perhaps even ask the state’s assistance in paying for them.
One idea, she said, would be to remove the turbine known as Wind I and leave up Wind II, which has not resulted in as many complaints.
Another winning candidate celebrating at Liam’s was Leah Palmer, who with her colorful child-made election signs, seems to have made a big impression on voters.
She was the top vote-getter among four vying for two seats on the Falmouth School Committee. Incumbent Judith Fenwick won the other seat in a close race.
Palmer said she believed her signs helped her candidacy, particularly among those who might not have seen the candidate debate.
As a mother of three, she said she was inspired to have children make the signs because the school committee’s charge is all about children. Now that the election is over, she said she is excited to focus on “what we can do for the kids.”
–Laura M. Reckford
Question 1 – Begin funding town’s wastewater plan
Yes 5,094 No 3,646
Question 2 – Shut down and dismantle the town’s municipal turbines
Yes, 2,940 No 6,001
FLYNN AND MOFFITT ELECTED
Mary Pat Flynn 4,568
Rebecca Moffitt 3,540
Mark Finneran 3,246
Sheryl Kozens-Long 2,595
David Moriarity 1,536