Wood-chip plant transportation issues under review
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | February 27,2013
SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Select Board went behind closed doors Monday night with the town attorney and the executive director of the regional planning commission to discuss a possible agreement with developers of the proposed North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project over transportation issues.
Town Manager Robert Forguites said Tuesday there was no agreement about any memorandum of understanding out of the 40-minute session. Any agreement would be submitted as evidence during upcoming Public Service Board hearings on the project.
Prior to the closed-door session, Thomas Kennedy, executive director of the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, said his group was working with Springfield on transportation issues surrounding the proposed 35-megawatt wood-chip-fired power plant. Town Attorney Stephen Ankuda was also part of the talks.
Winstanley Enterprises LLC and Weston Solutions have proposed the wood-fired plant, which would be built adjacent to Winstanley’s building in the North Springfield Industrial Park.
But the project is opposed by a group of North Springfield citizens, who maintain that the wood-fired plant would destroy their quality of life with increased air pollution, truck traffic and noise pollution, among other problems.
Kennedy said transportation was the only issue the town and commission were working on jointly, via their joint attorney, Chris Callahan of Springfield.
But the fact that the town was only raising issues about transportation before the PSB upset several North Springfield residents, who attended Monday night’s Select Board meeting.
Fredda Kischko, a member of North Springfield Action Group, questioned the board members why issues such as air emissions, aesthetics, the height of the stack, water pollution and noise weren’t being reviewed by the town.
The Select Board’s role is to “protect the town,” she said.
Board Chairman Kristi Morris also said the town board had no role in setting up a private meeting with the developers of the project. Morris said the meeting, slated for Tuesday, had been cancelled. He said that the Springfield Energy Group, which is led by the town’s two energy coordinators, John Pugh and Mary Ann Remolador, actually was not a town committee, although he said Remolador’s joint involvement “muddied” public perception.
Both Morris and Select Board member Peter MacGillivray took strong exception to criticisms by Kischko and other members of NoSAG about the now-cancelled meeting.
Kischko and her husband Robert had sent a letter to the Select Board Monday objecting to the board attending any “by invitation only” meeting regarding the wood-chip plant.
MacGillivray said he felt his integrity was being attacked, and that the Select Board represented more than 9,000 residents of Springfield, and not just the members of NoSAG
“I’ve been to Winstanley five times,” MacGillivray said, asking questions about the project. He said NoSAG members were unfairly accusing the Select Board of trying to hold a “secret meeting.”
Both MacGillivray and Select Board member Michael Knoras said they had not made up their minds about the controversial plant.
“I haven’t made my mind up on what’s the best thing for the citizens of Springfield,” said Knoras, who said he was evaluating the project on more than just its ability to “generate revenue.”
Kischko said that the Springfield Development Review Board had recently said it had “eight or nine” unspecified questions about the project, but was reluctant to spend money to have an attorney look into it.
Knoras said he wanted to know what those questions were, and said those concerns should be discussed at the next board meeting.