Weston board mulls Priory solar; decommission of Devil’s Den Trail

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

One Weston Select Board member’s solitary action regarding a solar installation at the Weston Priory brought an annoyed reaction from chairman Denis Benson at the board’s June 25 meeting.

Charles Goodwin said that he had registered the Town of Weston on the Public Utility Commission’s website to be able to monitor the progress of a 49 kilowatt photovoltaic generating array that is in process of being permitted.

Board member Charles Goodwin says he registered the town on the Priory solar project to monitor its progress Photos by Shawn Cunningham

“Why?” asked Benson. Benson had said that the town had received a notice that the Priory was installing solar panels. He noted that it was just information and the town had not been involved with any other projects so he didn’t see why they would start now.

“I just thought it was a good idea,” said Goodwin, who noted that it was not “party status” but only to receive information.

“I wish things like that would be discussed with the board rather than just go off and do them,” said Benson.

Goodwin said he had a concern that someone might object to it and that there might be people who think the town should  get involved.

Benson said he is concerned because he has heard that the lifespan of the panels is about 25 years and he wants to know if, at the end of that time, “are they considered hazardous waste and if so who pays to dispose of them?” He added that he is also concerned that the town could “get stuck paying the tab” for disposing of the panels if they are hazardous waste.

The Priory’s brother Michael (in the tractor) heads over to the solar site.

But in an interview with The Telegraph on Tuesday, July 2, Marlene Allen of Same Sun of Vermont said, “The steel can be recycled, the modules are glass and silicon and there are no chemicals … there’s nothing hazardous that I can think of.” Same Sun is the company installing the array for the Priory.

Out at the Priory, an area about the size of, and adjacent to, the parking lot has been cleared in anticipation of success with the permitting process. Brother Michael, who was working with a small tractor on the site told The Telegraph that the installation will cover the electric needs of the Priory and its four guest houses with enough left over to contribute to two of Vermont’s 11 Dismas Houses. These provide a shelter and support for men and women making the transition from incarceration to freedom.

Allen of Same Sun said that the permitting process is under way and that once the July 12 comment deadline is past, the Public Utility Commission can look at the project and issue the Certificate of Public Good needed to move ahead with the project. The system will be owned by Same Sun with a “lease to own” contract on which the brothers at the Priory will make payments.

Once permitted, the solar array can be installed in about two weeks, according to Allen.”It’s not that big,” she said.

The ground-mounted system will sit  on posts driven into the earth. The photovoltaic panels come with a performance guarantee that they will produce 80 to 90 percent of the power they are rated for after 25 years. After that, their performance may degrade, but they can have a very long lifespan. Allen notes that Same Sun has a module built in the 1970s that is still producing the power it was rated for on its nameplate.

Emergency management updates

Birgit Sutter-Davis explains her progress toward taking over as Weston’s Emergency Management Director.

Referring to herself as “emergency management director in transition,” Birgit Sutter-Davis updated the board on the steps she is taking to prepare to take over the position held by Mark Falango.  According to Sutter-Davis, Falango will remain in place until the end of the year or until she feels ready to take over. She hopes that will be in October.

Sutter-Davis told the board about funding that is available from Federal Emergency Management for damages from the April 15 storm and flooding. The town has 30 days from the emergency declaration — which was made on June 14 —  to submit expenses for damages to town infrastructure. There was discussion of flooding in the basement of the town office and in the fire station as well as damage to Greendale Road.

The deadline for submitting damage costs is July 13 and Sutter-Davis said she would  have to figure out how to get Weston set up for the FEMA grant online portal.

Bruce Frauman of the Mighty Londonderry resiliency group told the board that there would be an emergency management training on July 24 and 25 which has since been changed to July 31 and Aug. 1 in Londonderry and that area towns including Weston are invited to participate. He expects that the workshop on the interface between incident command and emergency center operations will take place from around 5  to 8:30 p.m. on those days.

End to Devil’s Den Trail

District Ranger Martina Barnes, right, introduces Ranger Danna Strout who explained situation with the Devil’s Den Trail

Acting U.S. Forest Service Manchester District  Ranger Martina Barnes introduced Ranger Danna Strout, who briefed the board on a few projects, especially on the Devil’s Den Trail, where there are seven trail bridges that have been found to have critical faults. The 6-mile trail runs from the end of Trout Club Road to Forest Road #10. According to Strout, the cost of replacing the bridges would be around $250,000 while the cost of removing them would be more like $20,000.

Strout said that the Manchester District of the U.S. Forest Service does not have the budget to replace the bridges, and has had “heart to heart” conversations with local snowmobile and mountain biking clubs about the problem, but neither were able to help with the funding. The Forest Service does have the funding to remove the bridges and decommission the trail and that is what will be happening. While the trail will be open in the future, it will no longer appear on trail maps and it will not be maintained.

Both Strout and Barnes stressed the importance of receiving help from interested organizations to keep up its trails.

Dogging it on dog license

Town Clerk Kim Seymour told the board that there was one dog that had been licensed last year who has not been licensed this year. The owners of the outstanding dog have been called repeatedly by have not gotten back to Seymour, who said she would “continue to hound” them.

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