Iberdrola offers ‘partnership’ payment to Grafton voters

Residents gather at the Grafton Elementary School to hear and chat about the latest Iberdrola proposal. Photos by Cynthia Prairie.

Residents gather at the Grafton Elementary School to hear and chat about the latest Iberdrola proposal. Photos by Cynthia Prairie.

By Cynthia Prairie
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Iberdrola Renewables is offering the registered voters of Grafton a minimum $428 annually in “partnership” payments should its pared down 24-turbine ‘industrial wind farm be built on the Stiles Brook property that straddles Windham and Grafton.

EXCLUSIVE: Iberdrola sweetened the pot, but Windham residents stirred it.

On Wednesday night, about 70 people crowded into the gym at the Grafton Elementary School, huddling around poster displays and a packed table of food to discuss the new development with company representatives and each other. You can read the Grafton proposal here.

Details of direct payments to registered voters, charities and the Fire Department.

Details of direct payments to registered voters, charities and the Fire Department. Click photo to enlarge.

The night before, Iberdrola had held a similar information meeting to announce that it had eliminated four of the western-most turbines from the 20 proposed for Windham and added an annual $350,000 for direct “partnership” payments to Windham registered voters, with a minimum payment of $1,162 annually. This brought Windham’s annual tax and benefit package to $1 million.

For Grafton, the company added an annual $215,000 for those “partnership” payments, bringing that total package to $500,000. It also includes $10,000 annually to the Grafton Fire Dept. with a one-time payment of $50,000 at the start of the project and $15,000 annually to community based organizations such as the Grafton Library, Grafton Historical Society and Grafton Cares.

In reference to the benefits to the Grafton Fire Department and charities, Grafton Select Board chair Ron Pilette said, that it could “jeopardize the planning and budgeting process. … its scheduling of regular replacement of equipment. What I’m worried about is 15 years or so down the line, when the payments stop. If the town hasn’t been careful about its budgeting because it has all this extra money … we could easily become very very poor budgeters of town money.”

Select Board member John Turner, center, speaks with Iberdrola's Paul Copleman, right.

Select Board member John Turner, center, speaks with Iberdrola’s Paul Copleman, right.

He also worried that giving money directly to registered voters “in a town that  divided enough by this issue could further divide us.” Pilette speculated that there is a possibility that second homeowners would sue.  “This is not a proposal that will bring the town together,” he said.

Select Board member Al Sands said, “I can’t help but wonder if the Select Board in Grafton had been willing to work with (negotiating attorney) Saudek and express concerns, what might have happened” to the Grafton side of the project, including removing turbines. Not negotiating with Iberdrola, he said, was not a responsible action “when you are representing all of the town.”

Paul Copleman, a spokesman for Iberdrola, said he believed there would be other economic benefits for the communities during construction, such as employing 100 people and securing local gravel, fencing and personnel for security among others.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has 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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