Grafton Board seeks way to garner wind project opinions from second homeowners

By Cynthia Prairie
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

A majority of the members of the Grafton Select Board continues to search for a way to gather non-residents’ opinions on the 28-turbine Iberdrola-Meadowsend wind project proposed for the Grafton/Windham town line.

From left, Grafton Select Board members Skip Lisle, Gus Plummer, Sam Battaglino, Ron Pilette and Noralee Hall. Photo by Cynthia Prairie

From left, Grafton Select Board members Skip Lisle, Gus Plummer, Sam Battaglino, Ron Pilette and Noralee Hall. Photo by Cynthia Prairie

Board chair Sam Battaglino has proposed that non-resident property owners in Grafton should have a say on the controversial 28-turbine project, and suggested so again at Monday night’s Select Board meeting.

In an interview that evening, Town Clerk Kim Record said she would object to holding a non-resident vote during Australian balloting since that process is considered an official town meeting and nonresidents are not allowed to cast a vote.

But on Tuesday, Battaglino said that issue could be addressed. He added that the idea of giving the second homeowners a voice actually came from a group of 40 who sent a letter asking to be heard.  Battaglino added that that list is growing. “These folks pay a lot of taxes — about 60 percent of the taxes in Grafton. … they support the roads, the fire department, the church, the music. It’s ridiculous to say that they cannot have a say. They also employ  a lot of people: carpenters, landscapers, painters etc. They are an economic engine.”

Battaglino said he did suggest at Monday’s meeting using mailers to gather the opinions of second homeowners,  something that had been done in Newark, in northern Vermont. He added that it would  be appropriate to use tax dollars to do so.

He also suggested that opinions and the vote to be sent as part of any package to the Public Service Board. “There shouldn’t be a two-tiered system between residents and nonresident homeowners.

But during Monday’s meeting, sources say one resident objected, stating that Iberdrola, the wind project developer, needed to be informed since this wasn’t part of the agreement that it sent out and it could nullify the agreement. In November, Iberdrola wrote to the town’ s people stating that it would “respect the outcome of the vote” “by the registered voters of the town of Grafton.”

But Battaglino said that Iberdrola was not going to be dictating how the town conducted its business. They can ask, he added, but they can’t dictate.

It remains unknown when the Select Board will schedule a vote on the Iberdrola project. But the timeline has also stirred controversy. Some have suggested it coincide with the presidential elections in November when the most people come out to vote. But some board members say they have yet to decide a date.  Battaglino said it will be set “When we gather more information, although there may be enough now.”

Battaglino emphasized that whatever action there is will be taken by a new Select Board, which will see one and maybe two new members after the election on Tuesday, March 1. Battaglino is stepping down from his two-year position, which is being sought by Al Sands, whose name will appear on the ballot, and Matt Siano, who is running as a write-in. The other race — for a three-year seat — is between incumbent Noralee Hall and challenger Cynthia Gibbs.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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