The Block Island Times

Gov. Chafee — Democrat — visits Block Island

Talks about Deepwater Wind, PUC decision
By Stephanie Turaj | May 31, 2013
Photo by: Kari Curtis Gov. Lincoln Chafee greets substitute teacher Paige Linda in the kindergarten room of the Block Island School on Wednesday, May 29. Looking on is first grade teacher, Laurie McTeague, far left, and Chafee staffer Abby Swienton. Partially obscured is fifth grade teacher Bonnie Swienton.

During a short visit to Block Island on Wednesday, May 29, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee also took a moment to address two island-centered issues: Deepwater Wind and the ferry rate increases.

Chafee’s visit came the day before he announced that he will run for his second term as a Democrat. He was previously an Independent.

The Block Island Times asked Chafee about the viability of Deepwater Wind’s proposal to install five wind turbines off the coast of Block Island, and whether he thought the proposal would go through.

“These are all questions Rhode Islanders have,” said Chafee. “I’m not sure they realize how expensive Block Island electricity is. Block Island electricity is expensive.”

Chafee said he was aware of the variety of issues related to the Deepwater Wind project: “The viewshed, the cost of electricity to the island, [and] the cost of Deepwater Wind once it comes ashore to the [National] Grid ratepayers.”

“The process keeps going forward,” said Chafee.

Chafee stopped in to chat with John Cullen, who owns Water Street retail business B.I.T.’s, and who was an opponent of the freight rate increase that was included in the recent approval by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of the agreement with Interstate Navigation.

Cullen said in April at a PUC hearing: “If I raise my prices any more, people are going to stop buying, and if I absorb the prices, I’m going to go out of business.”

When asked about the freight rate increase, Chafee said, “I’d like to be more involved in the PUC discussions.”

To that end, Chafee told The Block Island Times that he has nominated former U.S. Attorney Margaret E. “Meg” Curran to serve as PUC chair.

Curran would replace Elia Germani who has chaired PUC since 2000. Germani’s six-year term expired March 1.

Chafee said that the current three board members on the PUC are “left over from a previous administration.”

While on Block Island, Chafee was welcomed warmly by the Block Island School, where he spent about an hour touring and reading a book to Kindergartners and first graders — “Mr. MacGregor’s Breakfast Egg.”

The reading was interspersed with questions from Chafee and comments from the children. “I eat eggs most every day,” said one child after Chafee asked how many children had eggs for breakfast that day. Chafee also asked the children questions about their school day. At the end of the reading, the children presented Chafee with a card and a Block Island School Hurricanes sweatshirt.

“I like to get out here once a year,” said Chafee to the group kindergartners and first graders. “Or as often as possible,” he added.

Chafee then was led on a school-wide tour by two Block Island schoolchildren, Mary Conant and Maya Wilson. He stopped along the way to shake hands with several kids wandering the halls, and popped into classrooms throughout the building.

As he walked through the second floor halls that are lined with murals and stuffed birds, schoolchildren commented to Chafee about their science and art programs.

Chafee was on-island for a Regional Tourism Director’s monthly meeting.

See more pictures of Chafee's visit here.

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