SOMERSET, Mass. (WPRI) – Residents of Somerset are sharply at odds as they prepare to go to the polls on Monday for a special Select Board election. The central issue: what should be done with Brayton Point pier?
The former power plant at Brayton Point was closed in 2017 and later demolished, and with it went the biggest source of tax revenue for the town of roughly 18,000. Currently, the site is being used as a scrap metal business, angering some neighbors because of its noise and truck traffic.
Target 12 talked to the two candidates running for Select Board — Melissa Terra and Kathy Souza — about their plans for the pier.
“We really need to use this industrial location,” Terra said. “And to me the best thing on the table is offshore wind.”
Souza agrees that a wind energy company would be a good replacement for the power plant. But with wind development likely at least four years away, she disagrees with Terra about how the site should be used until then.
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“We want manufacturing,” Souza said. “We want what we were promised — we were promised wind energy. We were promised manufacturing. We want jobs in town. We want the industry.”
Souza says the scrap metal business can’t be allowed to continue operating, and that she’s part of a lawsuit against the company. But ultimately, she says, the state should step in.
“We reached out to the state relentlessly,” Souza said. “As of two weeks ago, I have an email that the state acknowledges, from the state attorney: the Department of Conservation and Recreation own that property — it’s under their care and control.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Olivia Dorrance, told Target 12: “The Department of Conservation and Recreation is aware of concerns regarding ongoing activities at Brayton Point, and is currently engaged in a review of the site history and associated requirements created for the property as part of its development.”
However, Terra argued Souza and other leaders of the group Save Our Bay Brayton Point haven’t allowed people to share different ideas about the property on social media.
“If anyone brings up another point of view, it seems like there is this group mentality that attacks you,” Terra said. “That’s not how you build a community.”
Souza, meanwhile, said she’s been much more involved in town, zoning and planning board meetings over the past three years.
“We don’t have time for somebody to catch up, listen to what’s going on, and then jump in,” Souza said. “I can jump in right now.”
The special election is only happening due to the resignation of the previous Select Board member, Holly McNamara, who cited the current negativity in Somerset as her reason for stepping down.
Somerset voters can cast ballots in the special election Monday from 12 to 8 p.m. at Somerset Berkley Regional High School, according to the town website. The winner will hold the seat until April, when the next regular municipal election takes place.
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.