Biomass protest banner vandalized, police say
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | January 21,2013
SPRINGFIELD — Springfield police are investigating the vandalism of a large sign protesting the proposed wood-fired power plant in North Springfield.
Springfield Police Chief Douglas Johnston said last week the large sign, which he said measures 48 square feet, was vandalized at a home on French Meadow Road.
The sign said “Biomass? No Thanks! Not in Vermont.”
He refused to identify who owned the banner, but said it was featured during a gathering the previous weekend about the proposed North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project.
The backers of the project are Winstanley Enterprises and Weston Solutions Inc. Winstanley is already a large landowner in Springfield, since it owns the former Fellows Corp. headquarters in the North Springfield Industrial Park. The wood-fired generator would be built next to the Fellows headquarters.
Hearings on the proposed project are slated to begin in February before the Public Service Board.
The police chief also said similar signs, protesting the proposed project, had been stolen from various locations in North Springfield in the past several months.
Randall Susman, a professor of anatomical sciences at Stony Brook University in New York and a part-time Springfield resident, said his sign had been ripped off its metal rebar posts.
He said a neighbor noticed the sign had been vandalized. Originally, he said, he thought the wind had blown it down, but further investigation revealed the vandalism.
“I purposely put the sign up near the VAST trail as it passes through my property so people were sure to see it,” said Susman in an email Friday. “I guess that was a two-edged sword because the genius who apparently had too much time on his hands Monday night didn’t even have to walk the 100 yards from the road.”
“I have no idea who might have come onto my property to take down the 12-by-4-foot banner. I don’t want to point any fingers save to say that it was not an accident since the person cut some ropes that were holding up PVC reinforced by 7-foot rebar sunk into the ground,” he added.
Susman said he believed it was someone outside the neighborhood, since “most of the neighbors sympathize” with the North Springfield Action Group.
He said a week ago, NoSAG had held a gathering and fundraiser, with coffee and cake, under the sign.
“It was a nice gathering for a good cause that has brought the community together even if the local politicians seem to think otherwise,” he said.
Susman is a member of NoSAG, which is actively working against the project called the North Springfield Sustainable Energy Group.
He said the vandalism was disappointing. “The sign thief is small potatoes compared to the disappointment some of us feel for our local politicians who seem to have drunk the Kool-Aid and have dollar signs in their eyeballs over supposed tax revenue they think will be the salvation of Springfield. The tax revenue is nothing but a promise,” said Susman.
“The good news is that the banner lives and will fly another day,” he said, noting the group had reordered lawn signs as more people are getting involved.
NoSAG has hired Montpelier attorney Gerald Tarrant, a former Department of Public Service commissioner, to represent the group’s concerns about air pollution, noise, and truck traffic before the board.