The Block Island Times

Council looks into creating port authority

By Stephanie Turaj | Jul 09, 2013

Following the recent ferry rate changes that include increased freight rates and other price changes, the Town Council has decided to look into possibly establishing a port authority, which would manage or oversee the town’s ports in some way.

But the extent of the port authority’s role and the means of establishing such a body are not yet clear. The council discussed some options at its Monday, July 1 meeting.

Second Warden Ken Lacoste suggested the council keep the mission statement of the port authority “clear and simple.” He cited Portsmouth, N.H., where he said the port authority manages the town’s “title waters,” oversees commerce, and cooperates with government agencies.

Councilor Norris Pike said that he would like the port authority to be able to provide input during the next ferry rate case to the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers.

Councilor Sean McGarry said he thinks the port authority might have to be set up legislatively, and added that maybe the port authority could be made up of representatives from various entities, not just from the town, and including Interstate Navigation.

The council agreed to research a port authority further, including looking at past information the town had collected.

In addition, Lacoste will be drafting a letter to the Public Utilities Commission that outlines some of the council’s complaints and position about the most recent ferry rate case.

Other Business

During public comment, island resident Tim McCabe presented a series of photos that appeared in national publications, such as the New York Times. He claimed that the photos were “pagan art religion of the Holy Grail” and if the photos were turned upside down, they showed “demonic faces.” McCabe wants all Rhode Island schools and town halls to ban the New York Times and other publications.

McCabe also distributed a press release to the Block Island Times. The release read “Tim McCabe, founder of the True Church of the Holy Ghost, is asking all schools and Town halls in Rhode Island to ban the NY Times, USA Today, Time Magazine and any other publication that is surreptitiously putting the cannibal pagan art religion of The Holy Grail in their publications. If we can’t have a picture of Christ in our town halls and schools we can’t have Devil worship.”

At the council meeting, Town Manager Nancy Dodge reported that the storm damage repairs to the Town Beach Pavilion have been completed.

She also reported that a bid for $60,450 was awarded to South County Post and Beam for the picnic shelter at Ball O’Brien park.

She also updated the council about proposed road repairs on West Beach that would be performed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Several audience members expressed concern about aspects of this road repair, but Dodge said the repairs are just in the beginning stages, and there would be environmental surveys, cultural surveys, and public comment periods held by state and federal permitting agencies.

There will be a public hearing date of Sept. 15 for proposed changes to the town zoning ordinances.

After a brief discussion, the council voted to have the town attorney review a Request For Proposal (RFP) draft prepared by the Electric Utility Task Group. This draft outlines a process for installing solar panels on town buildings, in which a private company would install the panels and the town would be able to purchase the power generated.

The council voted to grant a game license application for Trader Vic’s, located at Champlin’s Marina, for two gaming devices. This had been tabled from a previous council meeting because councilors were concerned about approving a new application in a residential zone, instead of the commercial zone. Town solicitor Don Packer wrote a letter to the council explaining that the application could be approved and it would not be setting precedent.

Also granted was a F1 (special event) liquor license to the American Legion for its summer picnic event.

The council also voted to write off $672.67 in taxes from various island residents that have been delinquent for at least 10 years.

There is currently an opening for a position on the Deer Task Force.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Sam Wells | Jul 09, 2013 21:38

I many states a port authority means that it can issue bonds to develop coastal property and buy land which it can own or lease.  These are revenue bonds based on the income gathered from "port fees" that includes vessel dockage, a fire response fee, terminal rent, landing fees, and so forth - including property taxes on people who live within the jurisdiction.  I am not aware of any case where a port authority could intervene in a ferry rate case - but Rhode Island is rather unique.  I believe that your legislature set up a statewide port and economical development corporation although details seem scant to me.

In the case I was speaking, a state legislature must approve any request to establish a port authority, what its powers are, how membership is determined and elected, and how it borrows and uses money.  As such, the local government such as the Town of Shoreham may have a seat on the Board, but only would have one vote.  All property under the port authority control, including its budget, would now be separated from the municipality, as it's own corporation.

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