Wind and…

English: A barn and wind turbines in rural Ill...

English: A barn and wind turbines in rural Illinois Deutsch: Eine Scheune und Windturbinen im ländlichen Illinois Français : Une Grange et des éoliennes dans la campagne de l’Illinois Português: Um celeiro e turbinas de vento na Illinois rural. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night I had the privilege of hearing John Droz, Jr., speak on the topic of alternative energy. Mr. Droz is part of the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions (AWED). an informal group of PhD‘s and other individuals involved in energy and environmental matters. As a physicist, Mr. Droz approaches the concept of green energy from a scientific perspective. Unfortunately, because the issue of green energy has become politicized, that approach is not generally heard. The group maintains the website WiseEnergy.org.

The issue last night was windmills–are they truly green energy and do they make sense scientifically? Recently Carteret County prevented the construction of a wind farm in their county, and there is now a company that may want to place a wind farm in Craven County. The discussion was a scientific approach to wind energy.

Mr. Droz explained that because a constant wind could not be depended upon, wind power alone cannot deliver electricity around the clock unless it is backed up by a conventional electrical source–coal, gas, wood, etc. So when you are talking about wind power, you are automatically talking about wind and.. That is something I have not often heard mentioned by the advocates of wind power.

There is also the issue of the impact of large wind turbines on residents nearby. In February of 2013, I posted an article (rightwinggranny.com) about wind power in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Falmouth is a town on the western end of Cape Cod, and theoretically would be a wonderful place to harness wind power–there is almost always wind. However, after the windmills began turning, residents complained of headaches, interrupted sleep, vertigo, and other symptoms. The Board of Selectmen voted to remove the turbines, but the town voted not to remove them (the removal might cost as much as $18 million). The town was examining other solutions–buying more property around the windmills (not cheap–property in Falmouth is expensive and there would also be the loss of real estate taxes paid to the town) and curtailing the hours the windmills operate. Obviously, neither solution is perfect.

The bottom line here is simple–from a scientific perspective wind power is not practical. There may come a time in the future when the technology advances to the point where wind energy does not need a fossil fuel back-up and the impact on people living near the turbines can be minimized, but we are not there yet.

The most important thing I learned last night was that if Craven County wants to protect itself from the damage wind mills would do to the county, there are some very basic things that can be done. First of all, the public needs to become aware of the facts about wind energy. Second of all, Craven County residents need to make sure that the Board of Commissioners is aware of the facts about wind energy. At that point, it is a matter of drafting basic legislation that will protect the country from the environmental damage that a wind farm would do to the community.

This is the link to the slideshow used in the presentation last night.

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Democracy In Action

Tonight I attended the “Post-Negotiation” Forum with the Town of Plainville presented by the Cummings Team. This forum was the final phase of the meetings held before the September 10th election where Plainville residents get to vote on whether or not to allow slot machines to be installed into Plainridge Raceway.  What was supposed to be a rather orderly process was complicated recently when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission declared  OurWay Realty (the former owners of Plainridge Racecourse) unfit to manage the proposed slot machines due to some prior business practices. To review some recent history, the Town of Plainville Board of Selectmen decided to proceed with the election, stating that the owners were disqualified–not the site or the town. The original purpose of the meeting was to explain to the voters the details of the Host Agreement Plainridge had signed with the Town. That was done very thoroughly, but obviously those attending the meeting were very interested in learning about the company that had bought Plainridge. All of the information about the Host Agreement between Plainridge and Plainville can be found on the Town of Plainville website. The Assignment and Assumption of Host Community Agreement can also be found on Plainville’s website. The agreement is between Ourway Realty, LLC, and Springfield Gaming and Redevelopment ,LLC (a company formed by Penn National Gaming). The agreement did not change–it was simply transferred to the new owners.

This week it was announced that Penn National Gaming has taken over Plainridge Racecourse and will apply for the license for the slot machines. Penn National Gaming representatives gave a short presentation about their company and explained that very few changes would be made to the original plans for the Racino. They gave a brief history of the company, which is publicly traded on NASDAQ. Chris McErlean, Vice-President, Racing, explained that the company’s forte is racing/gaming facilities. Eric Schippers, Senior Vice-President, Public Relations, explained that the goal of Penn National Gaming in getting involved in Plainridge was to save the racetrack. He explained that Penn National Gaming has a decentralized management philosophy and believes in local managers involved in the communities where their facilities are located.

The meeting was very positive, and I believe that Penn National Gaming would be a very suitable organization to run Plainridge Raceway. The representatives from Penn National Gaming did remind us that the vote in Plainville was only a part of the process. Even if the voters approve the slot machines, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will decide whether or not to choose the site.

I would like to applaud the Plainville Board of Selectmen for allowing the vote to go forward on September 10 even though it looked as if there might not be anyone to takeover the racetrack. I would also like to applaud the representatives of Penn National Gaming for a very thorough and concise presentation explaining who they are and what their plans are for the future of Plainridge Raceway. Because of the foresight of the Board of Selectmen and the willingness of Penn National Gaming to get involved midway through the process, Plainville voters will have a chance to express their opinion.

 

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When Government Actually Works

This is the link to the website for the Town of Plainville, Massachusetts. The town is run by a Board of Selectmen with an annual budget voted for by the voters in the town at an annual Town Meeting.

The issue before the Town right now is whether or not to allow Plainridge, a harness race track with simulcast racing in Plainville, to add 1200 slot machines to its facility. According to an internet directory of harness racing, there are only thirty-two harness racing tracks in North America.

There is a process that has to be followed to bring slot machines into a venue in Massachusetts. That process is controlled by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and the Town of Plainville is in the midst of that process.

Tonight I attended a Board of Selectmen’s meeting where the agreement that has been reached between the Town and the owners of Plainridge was discussed and voted on by the Selectmen. The agreement was unanimously approved by the Selectmen, and the voters in the Town of Plainville will vote on whether or not they approve the slot machines on September 10th (after they have had a chance to review the agreement).

The agreement will be posted on the Town’s website, along with a summary of the agreement (for those who prefer Cliff Notes). There have been numerous hearings dealing with the impact of the slot machines on the small town, and there will be more hearings before the vote.

Plainridge race track has existed in the Town since 1998. Plainridge has been a very good neighbor to the town–exceeding public safety and security requirements at the track and giving generously to charities within the Town. I don’t gamble and am not interested in going there to gamble, but I believe they should be allowed to put in the slot machines simply because of the way they have conducted themselves in the Town in the past. As an observation, I don’t drink, but I’m not interested in closing down every establishment in Plainville that serves alcoholic beverages.

At any rate, I wrote this article to say how impressed I am with the way the government of Plainville is working through this process. The process has been transparent from the beginning, and the Selectmen have gone out of their way to make sure that the public is informed of the impact the slot machines will have on our little Town.

On September 10, I will be voting for the agreement–I am impressed with the management of Plainridge, and I am impressed with the leadership of the Town of Plainville.

 

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Respecting The Past

Tonight I attended a Board of Selectmen meeting in Plainville, Massachusetts. I attended the meeting to hear an update on a building in Plainville that has many wonderful memories for the people of the town. Falk’s Market, with the address of 2 East Bacon Street, has been neglected for many years. The building was bought by Jeff Kinney, a resident of the town, and the author of the Wimpy Kid book series.

Mr. Kinney and his wife, Julie, made the following statement at the meeting:

Good evening, and thanks for giving us a forum to discuss the status of the development of 2 East Bacon Street in downtown Plainville.

It’s been several months since we last appeared before the Board of Selectmen, and although outward appearances suggest little is happening with the property, we’ve been actively working on the project since we last met.

Earlier this year we hired a development manager, Bob Nicodemus, who has 30 years of experience as an architect, and attorney Dave Simmons, who has worked on several key development projects in the area, including the Lowes on Route One and the Plainville Commons shopping area. We’ve also been working with local architects and engineers to study the property and have made significant progress.

We recently conducted a pro forma evaluation of the property to see what a business would require to thrive at 2 East Bacon. It became evident early on that for the site to host a sustainable business, it would need more parking capacity. This summer we made an offer to acquire 8 East Bacon, the lot adjacent to Falk’s Market, and we’re happy to report that earlier today, we closed on that property. Having additional parking will give the business that occupies 2 East Bacon a chance to succeed.

As we previously reported, we had the existing Falk’s Market structure analyzed by two engineers in the spring. Their shared opinion was that the building has serious and widespread structural problems, and demolition was recommended. This summer we had a formal architectural study conducted on the property, and the result was the same. The major components of the building–the floors, ceilings, structural support, foundation, and the entire outer envelope all need to be replaced. After months of studies and analysis we feel certain that the building, in its current state, cannot reasonably be saved.

Therefore, we’ve made the difficult decision to take Falk’s Market down. This decision was not made lightly. Over the course of the past year, we’ve spoken with dozens of people who have great memories of the building and its proprietor, Merrill Falk. We don’t relish the idea of taking down Falk’s Market, but we feel that it’s the only practical option given the state of the building. We’d like to ask everyone in Plainville to support and encourage us in our goal to construct a new building where town residents can come together and make memories for generations to come.

As we’ve stated from the beginning, our hope is to create an iconic symbol of the downtown that all Plainville residents can be proud of. We recently started working with local architects to draw up plans for a building that fits downtown Plainville’s character. We have several preliminary concepts completed but we want to continue exploring different options before sharing them with the community at large.

The timetable for taking the building down has not yet been set, but when we do begin the process, we’ll take great care to preserve those parts of Falk’s Market that can be reused or repurposed.

This month, we’ll be filing applications with the Board of Health, the Redevelopment Authority and the Zoning Board to accelerate the development of 2 East Bacon. We look forward to working with the town to bring this project to fruition.

Thanks for your time, and we’d be happy to answer any questions.

What a wonderful attitude this statement represents. There will be many tears because the building cannot be saved, but the respect in their statement for the history of the building and the history of Plainville is fantastic. It is my hope that every resident of Plainville will support the Kinneys as they move forward with their plans for Falk Market, and that even though we are losing a part of our past, we can be excited about our future. Thank you Jeff and Julie Kinney for your commitment to Plainville. We are blessed to have you as part of our town.

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Moot Transparency

Last night I attended my town’s annual Town Meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to allow the voters to pass the budget for the coming year and discuss other issues put on the warrant by various town departments or petitioners. There were probably about 100 to 150 people there. There are about 5,400 registered voters in the town.

Town Meetings are like elections–a lot depends on who shows up. Last night was no exception. One of the major items being discussed in the town at this time is whether or not to allow the local racetrack to put in slot machines. The racetrack currently has off-track betting on horse and dog races along with simulcasts of various races. There is an element in the town that wants to prevent slot machines from being added. Now you might think that someone who writes a blog named rightwinggranny would be opposed to bringing in slot machines. I’m not. There has been some talk around town about the evils of gambling and the horror it would bring to the town. (Do you remember the song about “Pool” in the Music Man? That’s kind of the way some of the talk is going.) Until the convenience stores stop selling lottery tickets, churches stop playing Bingo, and charitable organizations stop holding raffles, I really think the arguments are rather hypocritical.

Why do I bring this up? Last night, the foes of the slot machines tried a backdoor approach to stopping them. They put an item on the warrant through petition requiring selectmen to have a cost-benefit analysis done on putting in slot machines; then they amended it demanding two independent studies. They further muddied the issue by implying that the selectmen in the town could not be trusted to be objective in studying the proposal or making a decision. The motion was defeated 83-33.

I am a strong supporter of transparency in government. Our selectmen meet weekly, and the meetings are open to the public and broadcast on cable TV. Anyone who is interested can see what is going on. The petitioners should have known that the selectmen had already planned the study they were requesting. The Town Administrator explained that the study was necessary because of the impact of the proposal. It was also explained that the Town Meeting does not have the authority to compel the selectmen to take a specific action.

If the opponents want to stop gambling in our town, they will have a chance to do it at the ballot box. There was no reason to act as though they did not trust the selectmen to make the decision. The selectmen serve three-year terms. If the group that opposes gambling does not trust them, they need to put forth their own candidate. As someone who has lived in this town for more than thirty years, I think our selectmen are trustworthy and perfectly capable of making the right decision.

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This Doesn’t Sound Very Open To Me

My local newspaper, the Attleboro Sun Chronicle, posted an article today about an Open Meeting Law complaint filed by a resident of Foxboro. Foxboro is going through some political challenges right now as the town decides whether or not to allow a casino to be built near the stadium, and things have gotten a bit tense.

The article reports:

The state Attorney General’s Office says the chairman of the board of selectmen alone decides who may speak during a meeting – and when they must zip their lip.

The chairman can even refuse to allow a word of comment from the audience.

And a board or committee has no obligation to put any particular matter on its agenda.

Those are among the points raised by the Attorney General’s Office in its rejection of Open Meeting Law complaints filed last year by a Foxboro resident.

I am more than a little surprised by the ruling. Isn’t the Board of Selectmen accountable to the people of the town? Isn’t the meeting of the selectmen the place where residents can air their complaints and concerns? This absolutely makes no sense to me. Hopefully, the people of Foxboro will reflect their concerns about open meetings during the next town election.

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