The Block Island Times

Council rejects Interstate appeal

But urged a protest to state officials
By Lars Trodson | Jun 25, 2013

Ed. Note: This is an abbreviated version of a story that will appear in the Friday, June 28 edition of the paper.

In a meeting that was at turns contentious, probing and emotional, the Town Council voted Monday night 3-2 not to appeal the recent order by the Public Utilities Commission that governs a $579,388 annual revenue increase for ferry company Interstate Navigation.

Despite deciding against the appeal, the council was united in its belief that its unhappiness with the order should be made known to the state legislature and members of the state congressional delegation.

An extensive review of the order was provided by town attorney Katherine Merolla leading up to the vote. Merolla cautioned the council that the Rhode Island Supreme Court would look upon the PUC order with “absolute deference.” She said that to file a successful legal appeal, there would have to be a finding that the PUC decision was “grossly unreasonable.” The Rhode Island Supreme Court is the only entity to which a PUC decision can be appealed.

“They will not go beyond the facts,” said Merolla of the state Supreme Court. “They give very, very, very deferential weight to the commission.” A seven day window for an appeal began last Thursday, June 20, when the written order was issued by the PUC. The window closes at the end of the day Thursday, June 27, which was the reason why the council scheduled this special Monday night session.

First Warden Kim Gaffett and councilors Ken Lacoste and Norris Pike voted to not seek an appeal. Councilors Chris Warfel and Sean McGarry did not agree, and were the two votes in favor of McGarry’s motion to appeal the PUC order.

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