ANTRIM NH - Antrim residents struck down an article that would have authorized the select board to acquire a 100 acre conservation easement as part of the Antrim Wind Energy agreement.
The conservation easement was added to the wind project, which is slated to be erected on Willard Mountain and Tuttle Hill, after the state’s Site Evaluation Committee rejected its proposal in late 2012. After the decision was handed down, the company removed a turbine, lowered one of its towers, and added additional conservation acreage to enhance the deal. The amended project passed the state’s committee late last year.
Ben Pratt spoke in favor of the town assuming responsibility for the conservation easement during Town Meeting.
“I think the town has an occasion here to do something really worthwhile which will be of benefit to Antrim and to future generations,” Pratt said. “I hope we take advantage of this opportunity.”
But others expressed concern over assuming responsibility of the easement.
Richard Block spoke in opposition of the article, citing concern over the easements potential cost. He said the $10,000 that the company has offered to monitor the easement is not enough. He also argued conservation easements by definition mean a set of rules and restrictions on a property to prevent it from being developed.
“This property would go into an easement after the turbines go up and come down again. The property will have been blasted, roads will be put in,” Block said. “It’s kind of like if I was a millionaire with a Renoir painting and I said, ‘you can have it, but first I’m going to burn it.’ That doesn’t make any sense.”
After a long discussion regarding the matter, residents voted the article down. The energy company will now have to find a third party to assume responsibility for the 100-acre easement.
During the meeting, residents passed the town’s $4.095 million general operating budget without much discussion.
An article to appropriate the sum of $252,375 to be added into four separate capital reserve funds was passed. Of that sum, $212,375 will be directed into a bridge capital reserve.
Voters OK’ed about $1.208 million to be used for municipally managing a New Hampshire Department of Transportation state aid bridge grant for the replacement of West Street Bridge. Of that, $942,592 will come from the state bridge aid, while about $265,868 will come from the town’s bridge capital reserve fund. Residents also passed an article to appropriate $112,000 for the replacement of Grove Street Bridge, $41,190 that will come from a bridge capital reserve fund and $70,810 that will come from unassigned fund balance.
At the end of the meeting, residents passed a petition submitted by more than 25 voters that proudly proclaims “We Stand With Standing Rock.” The petition was submitted after the months-long protest between Standing Rock Dakota Sioux launched in opposition of the Dakota Access Pipeline on the grounds that construction will desecrate tribal land and threaten drinking water for the Dakota people and everyone downstream of the Missouri River.
The petition demands that state and federal officials stop disregarding the laws of the country and, honor all First Nation treaties and remember that water is life for everyone.
The petition passed overwhelmingly, with only a few “no’s” heard faintly as the meeting drew to a close.
Select board race
Select board incumbent John Robertson edged out his opponent Charles Levesque by 24 votes. Robertson snatched up 167 votes to Levesque’s 143.
One of the biggest differences between the two candidates is their stance on the Antrim Wind Energy project. Robertson has supported the project during his tenure on the board, while Levesque has spoken numerous times in opposition to the towers.
“I think that each person has a responsibility as a citizen of our town to get out and vote their conscious for what they really feel like is best for the town,” Antrim resident Charles Bouche said on his way out of the Town Hall after he had cast his ballot.
Bouche wouldn’t elaborate on who he had voted for in the selectmen’s race, but said he took the wind project into consideration while casting his vote.
“One of the biggest considerations is still the wind farm and getting that established,” he said of his vote.