The Block Island Times

Council refines residency requirements for commuter cards

By Judy Tierney | Apr 11, 2013

Commuter card residency requirements for Interstate Navigation were on Town Councilor Sean McGarry’s mind at the town council meeting Monday evening.

McGarry was concerned because, in 2007, an application form for Block Island residents to complete was included in the definition of residency for commuter card eligibility, and the entire package was approved by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC). He disagreed with the inclusion of the application form as part of the definition of residency.

McGarry said he believed that the town was the only entity able to define who is a resident, but Town Manager Nancy Dodge and attorney Elliot Taubman researched old filings and discovered that it is not.

Dodge said that in l984, the PUC told the town and Interstate Navigation to agree on a definition. They did, and the town then issued commuter cards at town hall for $12 each. In 2007, after discussions with Interstate Navigation, the town and Interstate Navigation filed a joint petition to the PUC to adopt the town’s definition of residency from the local ordinances.

To be defined as a Block Island resident requires living on Block Island for at least nine months per year, holding a Rhode Island driver’s license, and registration on the town’s voter list. The PUC expressed concern about certifying those who apply for residency. Dodge said the town agreed that Interstate Navigation could attach an application form which residents would fill out and sign as certification.

McGarry contended that adding an application form as part of the residency requirement dilutes the town’s authority over determining its residents. He suggested the application be removed, and if the town determines its necessity, they should require it separately.

This issue is important, McGarry said, because he believes inclusion of the application is part of Interstate Navigation’s attempt to shift the authority to define residency from the town to Interstate.

McGarry made a motion to request that Interstate Navigation ask the PUC to rewrite the residency requirement in its original form, but adding the definition of residency as written in the town ordinance. Councilor Norris Pike seconded it, and it passed with three yes votes, McGarry, Pike, and Chris Warfel.

In his review of past testimony in rate cases, McGarry also found that Interstate Navigation initially said they would issue commuter cards during January, February and March, but they have now changed that to portions of those months. He disagreed with that policy, which narrows the window of time people have to obtain cards.

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