PORTSMOUTH — The town appears to be close to a solution to its wind turbine problem.Voters approved a $3 million bond issue in 2007 for the turbine, located at the high school, but it hasn’t spun its blade since June 2012 due to a broken gear box.
At Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting, Council President James Seveney said the panel will host a hearing on the turbine at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 3, at Town Hall, after which a decision on the town’s course of action will be made.
The town has been in private negotiations with an as-yet unnamed company in hopes of getting the blades spinning again. The council needs to decide whether the town should borrow money to fix the turbine or take it down.
Town Planner Gary Crosby has said if the town does borrow money to fix the turbine, the operation won’t be the money-maker that it originally set out to be.
Any revenue generated will go toward the hired company’s operations and maintenance and to pay off the debt owed on the turbine. The rest will go into a “self-insurance fund” in case anything else goes wrong with the turbine, he said.
Burn permits questioned
Also at Tuesday night’s meeting — held a day later than usual due to the Memorial Day holiday — resident Albert N. Silvia of 42 Randall Lane requested changes to the town ordinance related to outdoor burnings.
Mr. Silvia said since he and his wife retired and have spent more time at home, they’ve noticed “excessive burning of brush” in town.
“There are many homes in our area that have piles of brush and debris waiting to be burned. It’s like constant smoke coming around our area and it’s very difficult to breathe,” said Mr. Silvia.
He suggested that the town ban all outdoor burning of brush and branches. Residents could take their debris to the town garage where it could be run through a wood-chipper, Mr. Silvia said, and a compost area could be established for leaves and mulch.
“It could be recycled by the townspeople for their gardens and flower beds,” he said.
At the very least, he said, the burnings should be limited to the late fall.
Fire Chief Michael Cranson said residents are allowed to receive a burn permit which is good for a week. “If we do get calls of complaints, under the ordinance we do have the authority to revoke the permit or extinguish it,” Chief Cranson said.
Last year, about 200 burn permits were issued, and the chief guessed that an additional 200 residents are burning illegally every year. “We’re certainly not in the business of driving around town looking for people illegally burning; it’s complaint-driven. We probably get 25 to 30 complaints a year,” he said.
Mr. Seveney said the town should look into the matter further. “Maybe we’re too casual about burn permits,” he said, and suggested that Town Administrator John Klimm meet with Public Works Director Dave Kehew to discuss the issue.
Other action taken
In other business Tuesday night:
• On a suggestion by council member David Gleason, the council voted unanimously to form a committee to study the town’s current fee schedule and also to seek bids for unused town buildings and parcels of land.
• The council met in executive session to discuss two items: a R.I. Department of Environmental Management notice of violation regarding the “Melville dam,” and the Glen Manor House pier. On the second item, the agenda cited a section of state law which allows private discussions when they involved “publicly held property wherein advanced public information would be detrimental to the interest to the public.”