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Selectboard signs revised version of Safe & Green letter

BRATTLEBORO—The Selectboard signed a revised letter intended to communicate the town’s list of concerns around the closing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon.

The Safe & Green Campaign, an anti-nuclear advocacy group, drafted the original letter. It has presented the suggested text to all towns within 20 miles of Vermont Yankee.

According to Bob Bady, Vermont coordinator for Safe & Green, 15 towns, including Brattleboro, have signed a version of the letter.

The board had tabled the letter from its last meeting because board members didn’t feel ready to sign the letter as written [The Commons, April 13].

Selectboard member David Gartenstein took the lead on revising the letter, taking input from other board members, and presented the new version at the April 19 meeting.

“I think this [new version] communicates issues most of us can, and should, agree on,” said Gartenstein.

Gartenstein said the original letter required rewriting because, as he described it, the draft had an “adversarial and confrontational tone.”

Also, he said, the letter made requests beyond the town’s power, such as the type of severance pay for displaced workers, and establishing a citizens advisory board.

In a prepared statement, Selectboard Vice-Chair Christopher Chapman said as an attempt to engage Entergy the letter was “excellent,” but he did not like the attitude of “mistrust” in the letter. He said he would vote against signing the letter “with a respectful attitude toward the 1,000-plus voters” who voted in favor of it. Chapman said he had not been elected on the basis of signing Safe & Green’s letter, but to work in the best interest of the town.

Chapman said he felt that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was doing its job in regards to shepherding the town’s safety. He said other ways of engaging Entergy were more appropriate.

He pointed to the Post-VY task force, a subcommittee of Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategy (SeVEDS), as an example of a more appropriate avenue of engagement.

“I just don’t see the [letter’s] necessity. I do see the necessity of working closely as possible with the organization,” said Chapman.

In the end, Chapman and Selectboard Chair Dick DeGray voted against sending the letter.

Bady told the Selectboard that the letter represented an ongoing process, and that the Selectboard represented the community’s opinion. Representing this opinion is significant, said Bady.

In a separate interview, Bady said that Safe & Green felt “fine” and “okay” about the board’s revisions.

To Bady, the Selectboard’s 3-2 vote reflects three members aligned with Brattleboro public opinion, and two members supporting a VY-favorable business community.

“And I think that’s the reality of Brattleboro,” said Bady.

The letter only appeared on the April 5 agenda after some rigamarole.

Bady first sent the letter to Selectboard Chair Dick DeGray in the fall of 2010. DeGray told Bady that the former board would not sign the letter, and suggested Safe & Green try their luck at a town-wide vote.

In March, voters approved the board signing the letter, 1031-427. The letter almost didn’t make it on the Selectboard’s meeting agenda because, according to DeGray in a separate interview, the vote was on a non-binding article and did not compel the to board take action.

The letter appeared on the April 5 agenda after other board members requested it be added.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #98 (Wednesday, April 27, 2011).

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