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Some 36 voters attended the special town meeting to pave the way for wind turbines on the mountain.

Florida Approves Payments, Road Use For Wind Project

By Kathy KeeserSpecial to iBerkshires
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Representatives from wind farm developer Iberdrola went over the plans with voters.
FLORIDA, Mass. — The Hoosac Wind Project blew through its final hurdles at Wednesday's special town meeting.

It took just 15 minutes for the voters to approve two of three articles that will allow the wind turbines to be built. After a long journey through legal battles since the first town vote in 2003, only a few questions arose among the 36 in attendance. Most of the questions concerned the funds that the town would receive and the easement needed for town access over the roads being built to the dozen turbine sites, 10 of which are on land owned by Florida and Monroe.

State permits have been obtained by New England Wind LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, which owns 40 wind farms, generating about 4,000 megawatts, throughout the country.

Planning for the 30-megawatt Hoosac Wind Project began in 2003 by former developer enXco and the first permits were granted in 2004 to construct 20 turbines on Bakke Mountain in Florida and Crum Hill in Monroe. While the town overwhelmingly supported the energy project, abuttors and local environmentalist group Green Berkshires have been fighting the wetlands permit granted by the Department of Environmental Protection since early 2005.

A final decision upholding the DEP's wetlands ruling was made by the state Appeals Court in July. The town has twice extended the special permits for the project.

The first article confirmed payments in lieu of taxes to the town at the rate of $9,000 per megawatt for the next 20 years, or about $162,000 the first year. In every year after, the town will receive this amount or an increase based on the Consumer Price Index for that year. In the event of failure of a turbine as they age, the rate would remain in effect until the turbine is actually removed. (The town will also get leasing fees.)

"The payment in lieu of taxes means extra funding for the town that we can put to good use for the schools and roads," said longtime resident Stanley Brown. "I hope it comes to fruition after the long wait that the majority of the town has been through over the past seven or so years."

Jana Brule, former town administrator, said, "$162,000 is almost a 10th of the town budget and that means a lot of money for us. These funds can really help us right now and money can be put back in the stabilization fund, which we have had to spend from in recent years.  

"When the town really needs something, we will be able to purchase it."

The second article granting the town municipal easement over the Hoosac Wind project's access roads to town lands was passed over because the developers said they were not quite prepared to make a presentation.  

The third and final article gives the project developer the ability to make temporary road improvements, use town roads and store equipment on the land used by the Fire Department during the construction process. The easement will be to the east of the turbines and people who wanted more details stayed after the brief meeting to look at the larger renderings of the area and proposed easement for construction.

Iberdrola received $867 million in stimulus funds in July for investment in wind power. It expects to add 2,000 megawatts by 2012.
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Pittsfield In-Person Tree Lighting Ceremony Returns After 2-Year Hiatus

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

The Laviolette family donated the tree and turned on the lights on Friday.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Hundreds gathered at Park Square on Friday for the city's first in-person tree lighting ceremony in three years.

The 25-foot tall white spruce is adorned by 20,000 lights, illuminating the area and spreading holiday cheer.

"There are so many kids and families here this evening and I know everyone is anxious to see the beautiful tree that was donated by the Laviolette family," Mayor Linda Tyer said right before the switch was flipped.

"Thank you for your generosity. This tree will provide a whole month of beauty and festivity for all of us to enjoy and I love coming to the tree lighting because when you look all around Park Square, you can see just how beautiful our city is at this time of year."

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