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The Hammond town board last night.
The Hammond town board last night.

Hammond wind meeting portends more conflict

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The Spanish energy company Iberdrola wants to erect 75 wind turbines in the St. Lawrence County town of Hammond. Many would be visible from the St. Lawrence River. As with many other communities across the North Country, wind power has deeply divided Hammond. At a meeting last night, the town board tried to get a fresh start on the issue. But as David Sommerstein reports, the initial results were not promising.

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David Sommerstein
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About 50 people gathered in Hammond's library.  Two videotaped the whole meeting.  On the right side of the room, Michelle McQueer - wind power supporter. 

Cause I think it's a good economic boost for this town.  I think it'll be the best thing that ever happened to this town.  With the oil and everything and the pollution, I have two small children.  I have to worry about whether there's going to be an Earth here.

McQueer's signed a contract for Iberdrola to put wind turbines on her land.

On the left side of the room, the videotaper was Mary Hamilton, president of Concerned Residents of Hammond, the group of wind power critics.

Y'know, you see all these commercials with wind turbines in them.  But you don't see the people.  And that's my biggest concern is that we're going to put these too close to people.

Hammond has already tried to sort these issues out before.  The town put a moratorium on wind farms, formed a wind advisory committee, and passed a zoning law.

But the whole process created more controversy than it resolved.  Four out of five town board members were ousted in last November's elections.

When the new board took power in January, it passed another wind farm moratorium.  It decided to create another wind advisory committee to study economic, environmental, health and safety impacts.

Last night, town supervisor Ron Bertram prepared to announced the committee's members, culled by the board from 22 applicants.

I am hoping that the advisory committee can make recommendations.  And they need to be based on factual data and studies.  They don't have the power to make any changes and to dictate what the board will do.

[paper rustling]

As Bertram read the names, almost everyone in the room kept score, comparing with scrawled lists of their own.

Allan Newell, Frederick Proven, Stephen Sarfaty, Leonard Bickelhaupt, Michelle McQueer, Richard Champney, Donald Ceresoli, Jr., Merritt Young, Ron Papke, and Rudy Schneider.

No sooner had the list been read than Jim Langtry - the only remaining member of the old town board - accused Bertram of stacking the committee with anti-wind folks.

You got people on there, all they're going to do is run the windmills right in the ground.

In just four minutes of public comments, there were accusations, shouts, and interruptions.  All signs that the second go-round at regulating the wind in Hammond may not go much better than the first.

For North Country Public Radio, I'm David Sommerstein in Hammond.

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