The Burrillville Town Council, through their press agent Dyana Koelsch, issued a “press release” Tuesday evening in which they laid out many of the details they are looking for in a tax agreement with Invenergy, the company that plans to build a fracked gas and diesel fuel burning power plant in Pascoag.
In the release the Town Council takes a strong stand against the Keable/Fogarty legislation that recently passed House but has seemingly stalled in the Senate that would allow Burrillville voters the opportunity to approve or reject any tax treaties negotiated by their Town Council with power plant operators. Many Burrillville residents felt betrayed by the press release, arguing that the Town Council has demonstrated that it is working against the people and in concert with Invenergy.
The decision to issue the press release was made without any apparent public announcement, hearing or vote. Town Manager Michael Wood explained that in light of the legislation introduced by Rep Cale Keable and Senator Paul Fogarty, “we felt it was necessary to get a statement out… We send these press releases where we think they need to go.” (Note: email@example.com is a great place to send press releases)
The issuance of the press release was likely decided at Tuesday night’s “special meeting” of the Town Council. In trying to access the video of this meeting, I discovered that there was no video. “As the camera was not working, there is no video for the June 7, 2016 Town Council meeting,” according to an email from the town clerk.
Too bad. It would have been interesting to hear what discussions, if any, pertained to the issuance of the press release.
The Town Council must have been expecting fireworks at their regular Town Council meeting last night. Upon arrival I noted the presence of at least four police cars and several officers outside. There was a heavier than usual police presence inside the Town Building at 105 Harrisville Main St. as well. Present was the entire Town Council, except for Kimberly Brissette Brown, who was absent. Also present were Town Manager Michael Wood, legal counsel Oleg Nikolyszyn, Town Clerk Louise Phaneuf and Koelsch.
The large, angry crowd never materialized.
In a phone interview, Koelsch told me that her PR firm was hired by the Town Council “to help them disseminate information in the best way we can to folks in town… The Town Council needs to speak with people in town and they need to let people know what they’re doing.” Clearly the Town Council thought her expertise would be useful in dealing with the angry crowds coming to the Town Council meeting.
About 20 people showed up. Only two residents from Burrillville talked to the Town Council: Donna Woods and Jaime Tessier. Instead of attending the Town Council meeting, most Burrillville residents concentrated their energies on the Senate Judiciary hearings in the State House in Providence.
The two Burrillvillians who addressed the Town Council did not mince words.
Donna Woods called the Town Council actions in sending the press release “shameful” and “corrupt.”
“You will be remembered for generations in this town for what you have done to us,” she said.
Jaime Tessier said to the Town Council, “That letter showed a complete lack of respect for the people you are supposed to represent.”
A gloomy Council President, John Pacheco III, ran the meeting almost by rote. He did not seem happy to be there. As the Council moved on from public commentary and into the regular meeting, they did so as 20 or so Burrillville residents simply sat there and watched, silently.
After the regular business was conducted, the Council went into “executive session” to hold a meeting about the Invenergy power plant. The public was not allowed to attend. In addition the the Town Council members the closed session was attended by Wood, Nikolyszyn, Phaneuf and Koelsch. The minutes and vote in the executive session have been sealed, but after coming out of closed session the Council announced that they had passed an official resolution that echoed the main points of the press release issued the day before.