Friday, April 11, 2008

Clinton does the right thing

The Clinton Board of Selectmen did the right thing Wednesday night, voting unanimously to reject Nestle’s bid to draw water from the Wekepeke in order to bottle and sell it commercially. From the Item:
CLINTON — Facing mounting opposition from Sterling residents to any and all commercial water pumping at the Wekepeke Reservoir, and unsure of the legal and financial fallout of such pumping, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Wednesday night to reject a water pumping proposal from Nestlé Waters of North America....

Selectmen also voted unanimously to have interim Town Solicitor Robert Gibbons begin looking into the legal rights the town has regarding the Wekepeke.

“We want to know everything,” [Board Chairman Robert] Pasquale said. “Our rights to sell the Wekepeke, to use the water, to sell the water. We want a definition of what rights Clinton and its inhabitants have regarding the reservoir. We know we need to keep it on the back burner as far as maintaining the property and repairing the dams. We thought the offer would be more lucrative to the town than it was. Who knows, a year down the road we may look at it again.”
The key here is the decision by the board to further investigate the legal issues surrounding the Wekepeke. Some of us who are opposed to the plan believe that it will ultimately be found to be illegal under state law and/or local zoning. I have been arguing all along that Sterling should oppose the plan on these grounds and others with the same opinion have threatened legal action.

If the questions that attorney Jim Gettens and others raised were part of Clinton’s decision to slow down a bit and investigate the legal issues before agreeing with Nestle, then Gettens and the Clinton Board both deserve credit for their actions. The Sterling selectmen also deserve credit for coming out against the proposal before Clinton made a decision, to whatever extent that opposition helped Clinton come to their decision.

Of course the issue isn’t settled, it’s just been set aside so that it can be studied a little further. And other activities in Clinton will continue to have an impact on the future of the Wekepeke. The people of Sterling should continue to be vigilant in ensuring that our interests continue to be represented. Hopefully we can work together with Clinton to resolve the issue as the tension between two towns begins to ebb.

Previous coverage of the Wekepeke:
April 9: Sterling should offer to buy Wekepeke at Nestle's price
April 6: Sterling selectmen to oppose Wekepeke plan, but to what extent?
April 4: Vermont looking to restrict Wekepeke-style projects
March 27: This can't be helpful
March 25: Tough decision ahead for Clinton
March 21: Nestle's proposal could change everything
March 21: Nestle nominated for "Corporate Hall of Shame"
March 19: Sterling Selectmen disappoint at Wekepeke forum
March 16: Sterling should oppose Nestle...the right way

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