Wind turbines continue to cause tension at Arkwright Town Board meeting
ARKWRIGHT — The scene at Arkwright’s town board meeting was tense and as bitter as the cold outside. The first meeting of the new year did not take a new tone, despite many attempts at humor by the board to lighten up the increasingly hostile setting.
Following the conclusion of the organizational meeting, the regular meeting began with the newest report on the wind turbines. “I have a report relative to the windmills,” said Arkwright Supervisor Fred Norton. “Our engineer tested seven locations on Jan. 10 — three on Cable Road and four on Center — and found that they all conformed to the zoning ordinance. They were all under 50 megawatts and the recommendation is when the wind increases in velocity that we do further testing.”
The room instantly filled with murmurs and whispers. Norton went on to say, “When I mentioned that it did seem loud, I was informed the testing equipment was picking up ambient sound, wind, traffic, etc., but we’ve tested 17 locations and they’ve all passed.”
Soon after, the board opened up the floor for public comments, and many voiced their concerns over the recent testing. Local resident Joni Riggle suggested “shadow flicker detection systems,” but quickly became unruly.
“People should experience what 20 minutes of shadow flicker is like. In fact, I’d like to show you.”
Riggle then proceeded to flick the lights on and off in the Arkwright Town Hall, disrupting the meeting, and frightening a small child in attendance. Multiple board members began shouting, “Hey!” and “Don’t do that!” at Riggle, who quickly receded to her seat. Riggle continued speaking though, as board members insisted that Riggle’s time was up. Riggle eventually conceded and stormed out of the meeting, taking several citizens in attendance with her.
“She’s very lucky nobody here had epilepsy,” one concerned citizen stated, following the spectacle. “They could’ve had a seizure.”
Amanda Dando, who at a previous meeting suggested Arkwright Town Hall create a website, came back with more suggestions she read.
“There are 27 municipalities in Chautauqua County, 25 of them have websites, only Arkwright and Stockton do not,” said Dando. “Stockton at least has a Facebook page.”
Dando further suggested that reports on the wind turbines, which cost 25 cents a page for citizens who wish to see them, could be posted on the website as well. “A web page could help bring some courtesy in regards to the windmills, posting some kind of contact info for the windmill company would be a wise decision,” said Dando. “I have no information on who to call if I see a problem with the windmill, and I know I can talk to people present here tonight with that information, but it would be so much easier for a person to look at that information on a webpage.”
The meeting further escalated as another citizen stormed out, following Norton’s suggestion for heavy curtains to curtail the wind turbine’s noise. A disagreement between Board Member Roger Cardot and Norton quickly developed thereafter, following a discussion on highway project funding.
“This is what I mean about (the Supervisor) acting on the board’s behalf,” Cardot said, before further fleshing out the exact figures with Norton and Arkwright Superintendent of Highways James Ziemba. Following the heated exchange, which didn’t seem to reach a palpable conclusion, the board went into executive session.
Prior to the meeting was the annual organizational meeting.
Norton read off a number of authorizations and designations specific to the town, including payment contracts and new rules for public comments at the meetings. One specific resolution stated “Authorization of the Supervisor to act on behalf of the Town Board between meetings” received immediate attention from other board members.
After reading the resolution at length, Cardot asked, “Why is there a town board then?”
Norton jokingly replied, “Because the law says so.”
The tone at the front of the room shifted, as Norton’s joke did not register with many in both the audience, and at the same table. Further explanation by Norton assured Cardot to second the resolution, though Cardot later rescinded his vote. “I did not vote,” said Cardot, after the resolution passed.
“But you seconded it,” Norton replied. Which, for the record, Cardot did.
After a moment, Cardot responded, “I’m going to say go ahead and do it, with some restraint.”