Friday May 13, 2011

MOUNT WASHINGTON -- It's the smallest town in the Berkshires, but voter turnout at the annual election set a county record, so far, of 70 percent despite a lack of contested races.

At the last minute, incumbent James Lovejoy beat back a write-in challenge by Gerald Allan, 53-29, to win another three-year term on the Select Board.

Allan's challenge was based on his concern that approval of a muncipal lighting plant at Town Meeting last week could clear the way for wind turbines on the community's ridge line.

State law requires approval of a muncipal lighting plant to clear the way for the Wired West last-mile initiative to bring high-speed Internet service to communities through fiber-optic cables.

Allan said Wednesday that the issue was the main reason he jumped into the race.

"My goal wasn't to get elected but to bring the issue to the forefront for discussion by the town," he explained.

Approval of the municipal lighting plant at last week's Town Meeting, by 22-8, was the first of two required votes.

Selectman Brian Tobin said "there's some concern about unintended consequences," namely a wind-power installation. He called for further study to achieve clarity on the issue before the next vote on the plant is taken.

"It's a fairly complex matter, and there's concern it could be used for other purposes," Tobin added. But he asserted that "there's no way Mount Washington would go for anything like that. We will not proceed with a second vote until we look at every angle to make sure the municipal lighting plant is limited to providing a fiber-optic network."

Tuesday's election, with 85 of 127 registered voters taking part, returned all other unopposed candidates to their positions, with a scattering of write-in votes. Town Meeting approved all warrant articles, including the $762,000 budget for fiscal 2012, in a 40-minute session May 3, attended by 30 voters, a 23 percent turnout.