In the June 27 issue of the Arcade Herald, Freedom Town Supervisor Randy Lester claimed that he is attempting to bring wind turbines into the area “for the Town of Freedom.”
If Randy Lester was genuine in his statement, he would have listened to the concerns of the town residents before sending the wind law to the county for approval. However, he sent the law off before he even held a public hearing for the law. He didn’t listen to a word we said as all town residents spoke about the project with legitimate concerns, save one turbine leaseholder who spoke in favor.
If Randy Lester was genuinely doing this “for the Town of Freedom,” he would have added protections to the wind law such as limited shadow flicker on our properties, lower night-time noise levels, further setbacks to protect our properties from ice throw and blade fragmentation and added a Property Value Guarantee Agreement that has been requested by the residents countless times. Hundreds of us will be dealing with over an hour of flicker per sunny morning or evening, while only 13 turbines are actually on properties owned by those who live in Freedom.
If Randy Lester was doing this “for the Town of Freedom,” he would ensure that Invenergy properly installed the 280-foot meteorological tower on Brown Schoolhouse Road, rather than allow an illegal placement too close to neighboring homes and property lines. He would have protected the property owner next door whose land was wrongfully torn apart because Invenergy was on the wrong person’s land in the first place.
If Randy Lester was doing this “for the Town of Freedom,” then why has the Host Community Agreement (HCA) amount from Invenergy gone from $370,000 to $288,000 when comparing the Economic Benefit Sheet put out by Invenergy in May of 2018 and Exhibit 27 that Invenergy submitted to the state? Why has the PILOT payment gone from $80,000 to $67,000?
Please note the 2019 town tax levy is $508,325. The town taxes will not even be able to be covered. And once the HCA expires in 20 years and the project valuation plummets due to “outdated technology,” the town would be left with pennies for the remaining 20 years of the contract and Randy Lester will have done nothing to protect the town from that.
He is also putting off our requests for added perks for an updated community center, improvements to the town hall or beautifying our park, as Invenergy did similar improvements in Sheldon.
When residents were present and asking questions at the work session for the HCA in March, Randy Lester decided it was best to end discussion and take it behind closed doors with Invenergy. We thought this was a Host Community Agreement “for the Town of Freedom.”
The Road Use Agreement states in the document that it would only be repairing the roads to “original condition,” would “not be responsible for normal wear and tear” and would not be repairing any roads other than the ones used for turbine transport. Randy Lester is going to sign that bad deal all the while singing that there will be improved roads in Freedom to “benefit the town.”
And the money to the schools? Invenergy is proposing to give $270,000 a year to Pioneer on a $56 million budget. That is less than 0.005% of the budget. Franklinville is slotted to get a whopping $31,000 a year.
Randy Lester stated he has a “vested interest in Freedom.” However, he has not demonstrated that he has any interest in protecting the taxpaying residents that have faithfully lived here while he abandoned the community for over 39 years and coincidentally reappeared when Invenergy blew into town. There is a compiled documented timeline including how Randy’s brother signed a wind lease the same day Invenergy began regularly attending the planning board meetings where the law was being written per Invenergy’s request.
Don’t tell us in one sentence that you are doing this “for the Town of Freedom.” Show us through open, honest communication with the town residents rather than dictating what comments can or can not be made at town board meetings, adding respectful parameters in the wind law and demonstrating the responsibility of an ethical leader under an Oath of Office to protect the town residents.
“May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.”
— Peter Marshall
(Stephanie Milks is a resident of Freedom.)