Letters to the Editor, Dec. 21, 2012
To: the Editor—
We were very surprised to see the public notice in last week’s Block Island Times that Interstate has filed with the Public Utilities Commission for major changes in its fare structure and were amazed by the changes they are proposing. Two, in particular, seem to us to be very ill-advised. Elimination of the islander commuter fares would hit year-round island residents particularly hard. After all, year-round residents are the ones who use the ferry all winter long. We agreed with Interstate when they tightened up the eligibility for the special fares for passengers and cars a few years ago to make sure they went only to those living on the island full time. Total elimination is wrong and must be contested vigorously by the town and individuals.
Major across the board reduction in fares for cars is also both wrong and damaging to the island. As it is, we have too many cars on the island in season — we do not need incentives to bring more cars over. Under the old fare structure, it was often cheaper to bring cars to the island than to park them at Point Judith. With this proposed change, it would be worse and parking in the downtown area would go from being difficult to being impossible in July and August. We should be raising the car rates to make it less attractive to bring cars to Block Island while keeping the commuter rates to protect the people living here who support the ferry service 365 days a year. Raising the car rates would provide additional money to Interstate while helping to protect Block Island. If there is a problem with excess capacity during the season, we would prefer to see the ferry schedule cut back during mid-week, perhaps achieving savings in relief crew costs. Another possibility is to institute seasonal car rates — much higher in the summer and lower in the winter.
If additional money is needed, we suggest Interstate look at increasing fares for the round-trip day tickets on weekends in season. The island sometimes is seriously overcrowded by day-trippers who come over on weekends. This increase would raise additional money for Interstate while encouraging people to visit Block Island during the week when the island would like to have more visitors.
The Town Council should immediately file a protest with the PUC regarding these proposed changes and ask the PUC to suspend the effective date of the proposed rates, which otherwise will take effect 30 days from the November 27, 2012, filing. This should be followed by a meeting with Interstate to work out changes that will benefit the town, its residents, and Interstate. After all, the town needs a ferry service, such as Interstate, and the ferry service needs the residents who spend money not only for travel, but also for food, oil, gasoline, building materials, etc… all of which come on the ferry.
It would have been much better had Interstate met with the Town Council before requesting such sweeping changes.
Margie and Bill Comings
Pilot Hill Road
To: the Editor—
I continue to attend public BIHS board meetings to protect myself and my reputation because of false or misleading statements being made. I am very concerned about the future of the center, do not like being blamed for problems that exist with vague explanations to the public, and would welcome a revised role in the future under new leadership.
In July of this year, my responsibilities were delegated to an interim executive director, a bookkeeper, a maintenance person, the board treasurer and other board members. BIHS has reported it could reduce its endowment by $211,000 by the end of the year under the new configuration. At the end of September of this year, the public was told in so many words that the center was in better shape and that donations were on par with last year. About six weeks later we were provided reports that projected a $125,000 deficit — then about a month later, last Friday, Dec 14, we learn that the projected deficit is $211,000 – nearly double what was previously reported one month earlier.
Public trust/being responsive
What is the problem with BIHS following open meeting law? Everyone understands that HIPAA confidentiality discussions about patients are off limits for public disclosure. In addition, the lack of reporting available about the center’s operation compared to prior years is disconcerting. The number of patient visits, patient charges, cash received, profit/loss compared to budget, balance sheets, and investment balances and withdrawals should be reported monthly. This information is critical to the board understanding the status of the operation, clearly communicating both successes and problem areas, and being responsive to questions at public meetings scheduled with sufficient time to satisfy inquiries.
Understanding the deficit
It is very difficult to understand the current deficit with the two-page summary of budgets and estimated actuals provided at the 12/17/12 board meeting. The primary reasons I see are a planned and budgeted $56,000 withdrawal from the endowment, a shortfall in donations of $40,000, inclusion of non-cash depreciation as a $31,500 expense, outside services/contractors expenses (including attorneys) exceeding budget by $19,000, unplanned payment of $13,000 to BIHS providers for exceeding patient visit goals (paid in error due to misunderstanding of the incentive formula), maintenance and security expenses exceeding budget by $12,700, and miscellaneous payments of capital items without adequate funding from grants or restricted donations.
The treasurer provided verbal explanation (without documentation) at the meeting that accounts receivable were high at $154,000, without explaining if this was a gross amount before reductions for insurance and bad debt adjustments. We were also advised that accounts payable due vendors last year was $34,000 and the credit card balance was $12,000 ($46,000 total) at 12/31/11. This is only $16,000 higher than the average year-end total accounts payable, and credit card total balance of about $30,000 for the prior three years (2008-2010).
For the record, my severance pay provided in installments over less than seven months (ending shortly) is not the deficit culprit. I am receiving less than my prior salary plus benefits, and less than one-third of the prior executive director’s severance package. After being employed less than five years, the prior ED was given a three to four month transition period at full pay plus benefits to train me, and then given about $75,000 as a lump sum payment at termination. Conveniently, the current interim ED and former council member offered to replace me without pay.
Board members admittedly lack optimism with fundraising but need to be involved in fundraising at a high level — for example, board members should be encouraged to contribute or seek out major donations from those with the means to give generously. The fundraising committee should not be involved in the minutia of stuffing envelopes and stamping letters. The Lights of Love campaign, for example, is better handled by a mail house (previously used) and sent out the day after Thanksgiving at a discounted third class non-profit rate.
I am willing to help BIHS get back on track in a revised capacity, but board leadership changes are needed. In addition, a trusting relationship with the town and a formal relationship with an area hospital (with adoption of its proven electronic medical record system) are crucial to future success. The first chairman of the physician’s advisory committee recommended for years that we needed a strong relationship with a major medical center. It is time to heed his advice. Having ready access to a pool of hospital providers with primary, emergency, and specialty care experience for on-island assistance will be invaluable. Potentials with this relationship include contracting hospital providers to work every third week of the summer during July and August to relieve the stress of current staff; and being more closely associated with hospital providers who envision reducing hours and coming to work at BIHS as an employee. We should also consider using the town’s financial system, to improve on-going confidence in financial reporting and likely reduce audit expenses. Re-establishing trust with initiatives designed to strengthen both quality and continuity is more important now than ever.
I sincerely wish everyone Happy Holidays, particularly the many friends and associates who have supported me and my family during the past year.
Old Center Road
To: the Editor—
At its meeting on 12/7 as reported in the 12/15 edition of the B.I. Times, the BIHS board distributed a six page statement (the “Lewis statement”) prepared by Secretary Kay Lewis to reject the proposed so-called “Weisbroat amendment” to the bylaws and, instead, to support the adoption of an amendment proposed by Ms. Lewis (the “Lewis amendment”), dealing with the power to remove directors.
Power to remove directors
The Weisbroat amendment merely restored the exact language of the original bylaw which gave the members of the corporation the sole and exclusive power to remove any director, with or without cause; and deleted the bylaw (the “2006 bylaw”) which illegally took away that power from the members and give it to the board. I say illegally, because contained in the bylaws — in every version adopted since the corporation was first formed, including the current bylaws — is the following fail-safe provision which prohibits the board from exercising any power conferred on the members:
“The Board of Directors shall have and may exercise all the powers of the corporation, except such as are conferred by law, by the Articles of Association or by these bylaws upon the members.”
Is it any wonder that the Lewis statement makes no mention whatsoever of the fail-safe provision? And that’s the rub; there is no way around it so the Lewis statement deliberately ignored it.
When the 2006 amendment was adopted, it replaced the term “members of the corporation” with the term “members of the Board of Directors.” In so doing, the 2006 board violated the fail-safe provision by taking over and dispossessing the membership of its exclusive power to remove directors.
However, by circumlocution and sophistry, the Lewis statement tries to deny the dispossess by claiming that the “members of the corporation” are identical with the “members of the Board of Directors” and therefore it was permissible to substitute the board in place of the membership in the 2006 bylaws.
Paragraph 2 at page 5 of the Lewis statement states:
"The first set of bylaws adopted in 1989 contained the sentence 'The members of the corporation may, at any meeting called for that purpose by vote of a majority of the members, with or without cause remove any director.' This wording carried forward unchanged when new bylaws were adopted in 2001 and 2003. Throughout this time period, the reference to 'members of the corporation' actually meant the members of the Board of Directors."
Nonsense. It is black letter law that when first incorporated, the incorporators of a membership corporation initially wear two hats: one as a director and the other as a member. Once the directors are elected they initially act as such and also as de facto members until the membership is created. Once the membership is created, the directors continue to function solely as directors and the members come into their own. They are no longer “identical,” as the Lewis statement would have us believe.
From inception, the corporate charter contemplated the eventual creation of a membership separate and distinct from the Board of Directors (and the bylaws were framed accordingly); once created the members became exclusively empowered with whatever powers they were given by the bylaws and the board, pursuant to the fail safe provision.
The fail-safe provision when taken together with corporate practice and procedure as outlined above undermines all the “ifs, ands, or buts” in the Lewis statement as to its specious claim that the term “members of the corporation” means the “members of the Board of Directors.” The fail-safe provision nails that down: it distinctly mentions the “Board of Directors" separate and apart from the members and prohibits the board from exercising the powers conferred on the members.
A further attempt to legitimize the 2006 bylaw is feeble and fallacious. Part of paragraph 4 at page 5 of the Lewis statement states:
"It can also be argued that the directors created this group of members [a new group of dues-paying members] when it adopted a full set of bylaws on 12/1/06 to replace the last full set adopted in 2003. However one thing is clear: At no time did the Directors dispossess THEMSELVES as members. [Italicized and capped in the statement.] They created an additional category of members while they also remained “members of the corporation.”
However, her 10/25/05 entry in part states: “Report given that there are 577 members…” which shows that the membership preceded the 2006 bylaw by more than a year.
Right to remove without cause
The Lewis amendment also attempts to water down and interfere with the members’ exclusive power to remove a director without cause: it violates the fail–safe provision by undermining that power. It gives a removed director the right to challenge the removal by setting up a convoluted procedure allowing a statement to be submitted by mail ballot by any member voting for the removal, setting forth the reasons for removal and, in response, allows a statement by ballot from the removed director challenging those reasons.
That attempt to tamper with the power to remove without cause is naïve or blindsided. On its face it sounds good. In reality it is disastrous: It would allow the challenger to pursue endless litigation, including exorbitant legal fees and expenses, claiming the removal was arbitrary and unjustified. Recognizing this, all corporations to the wise permit the members to remove those they elected without cause, and that practice is permitted by law.
One wonders whether this attempt by the Lewis amendment to, in effect, take away the members' power to remove directors without cause is nothing more than a ploy for self-preservation by the members of the current board.
In any event, the exclusive power of the members to remove a director without cause is safeguarded by the fail-safe provision and cannot be done away or tampered with by the board.
From the start, the Town Council tried to make peace by recommending that Monty and the board pursue mediation in hopes of settling their dispute. The First Warden asked the board to consider it and let her know whether or not they would try it. To my knowledge they never let her know. Instead they stonewalled that request and went into closed session to decide on a date to negotiate the management agreement, hardly a decision for a closed session.
Since then, a host of other issues have arisen: (i) the board and its leadership continue to oppose the community and the membership at every turn, including opposing a provision in the management agreement requiring them to comply with the RI Open Meetings Law; (ii) they ran up costly legal fees and expenses in their opposition to the community and financed those fees and expenses with community funds (to-date those costs amount to more than $20,000 and are ongoing); (iii) according to the editorial in the 12/15 edition of the paper, the board plans to invade the endowment fund at an unprecedented level of more than $200,000.
It is now apparent that this is a runaway board, believing that it knows what is best for the community, meeting behind closed doors more often than not, without input from the community. The situation keeps going from bad to worse.
It is time for the council to step in, stop the standoff and put an end to the misguided attempts by the board to shut out the community and chip away at the powers given to and retained by the membership for the very purpose of holding such a board accountable.
West Side Road
To: the Editor—
I have long delayed writing this letter. I thought the BIHS situation would have played out to its inevitable, petered-out end, but such has not been the case.
My wife and I have owned a cottage on Block Island for 20 years. Before that, we were renters and houseguests for about 10 years. In that time we have used the BIHS and the Rescue Squad many times — some of them life-threatening. We have on every occasion found both services to be professional, prompt, courteous, kind, clean and caring.
I have become concerned that the seemingly unending squabble (I cannot think of a better word) concerning the BIHS will have a serious and negative affect on the medical service provided. There has been much-too-much heat generated; and much-too-little light provided. Giving excellent medical service is, I am sure everyone agrees, the only reason for the existence of BIHS.
So, my suggestions are:
Do nothing about the present board at this time. ‘Changing horses in mid-stream’ has never been a good idea.
Contract with a new director. Provide the director with a contract long enough to attract fine talent for the position and also long enough to allow the director to familiarize himself/herself with the Block Island community, with BIHS, and to recommend and implement whatever improvements the new director might suggest.
Have a trial period (perhaps a year), after which the contract will be reassessed for continuance. At that time, re-assess the director and the board.
Additional benefits that will accrue to all Block Island residents are:
Allow well-meaning people time to “Build A Bridge Over Troubled Waters”… presuming the bridge is built simultaneously from both ends.
Provide a ‘cooling off period’ to help in the bridge-building process. As our friends in The Big City might say: “Fah-get About It.”
Guarantee uninterrupted, excellent health service by BIHS.
By the way, I do not know Mr. Stover, have never met him, and would not recognize him. And I did not write this letter to enter the fray, and will therefore not respond to any comments.
Robert J. McLaughlin
To: the Editor—
I am writing to comment on the December 8 letter by Peter Saxon in the B.I. Times about the continuing health center controversy because, like so much of the writing that has appeared in recent months, it contains misleading statements and betrays a woeful lack of understanding both of what the health center requires and what the health center board has actually done. Having served for five years as a member of the board, elected twice by the membership, much of what I write is based on my own knowledge of what actually occurred during the time I was on the board. (I resigned about a year and a half ago when I was no longer able to put in the heavy amount of time required.)
Mr. Saxon’s letter relies partly on a consultant report prepared for the BIHS board, but since some of the “facts” on which the report is based are open to question and others are simply incorrect, the consultant’s conclusions should not be accepted uncritically.
1. “The board is overly involved in the daily management of the center.” Unless things changed dramatically after I left, that is simply not true. The board did ask lots of questions about a long list of issues, including some raised by community members. The usual response was to ask Monty and, sometimes, other staff members about the issues and to indicate that “you are the experts and you need to figure out how to take care of them.” That phrase is in quotes because something like it was repeated over and over again in board meetings that I attended. There was a great reluctance on the part of board members to “interfere” in the daily operations of the center; instead we tended to rely on the staff.
2. “The board needs to extricate itself from some of its direct involvement in managerial issues.” Since the premise on which it is based is false, that statement should not be taken at face value. On the other hand, as a legal matter, it must be remembered that the board is responsible for the center; and it would be a dereliction of its duties if it failed to ask the kinds of questions the board asked. If anything, the board can be faulted for not pressing harder on some matters.
3. Also contrary to the consultant report, the human resources committee created for the first time a set of policies that protected both staff and the center by specifying the duties associated with each position and establishing a regular performance review process. Such procedures are common, but the BIHS did not have them until the human resources committee was formed and Jim Hinthorn, a retired HR professional, agreed to help the board create them. Since Mr. Saxon apparently thinks there is something nefarious in the fact that Jim’s wife Pam is now president of the board, it should be noted that he and the committee began their work before Pam Hinthorn was elected president and that Jim spent countless unpaid hours working with board members in this effort.
4. Regarding financial issues, it happens that I agree that the financial situation at the health center does not constitute a crisis, as some have suggested. On the other hand, it is also true that the current situation is unsustainable in the long run. That is because it costs more to operate than the center takes in in payments for services rendered. The two most important reasons are, first, that year-round residents do not use the center enough during the off season (too many go off island for services that could be provided at the center); and secondly, that insurers do not pay the center’s charges or cover its costs. The second situation will not change and is beyond the board’s or staff’s control. On the other hand, it may be possible to increase the off-season use of the center. To that end, several years ago, the board conducted a community survey to better understand residents’ experience with and perceptions of the center and then, adopted a policy to try to increase off-season use. I think it is fair to say that, to date, the effort to implement that policy has been limited.
5. One result of point 4 is that fundraising will always be necessary. It may also be possible to find creative ways to raise additional money. The contributions now required of moped owners is one example. Another possibility was suggested years ago by the late Chick Marcoux, when he was a board member: Ask island businesses to make regular payments to the center since their employees use the center. Since many do not have insurance, however, and have difficulty paying for services, they add to the center’s deficit.
6. Saxon concludes that “BIHS was financially healthy under Monty Stover’s guidance and could operate in the black for many years in the foreseeable future.” It would be more accurate to say that even though the center runs a large operating deficit, it can continue to function into the future by drawing on endowment income and with continuing fundraising activities. It could also be said fairly that this description of the center’s financial condition was obtained throughout the period Monty was executive director. But it is not accurate to say he is responsible for guiding the center to that condition. Let me emphasize that: Monty is not responsible for the center’s reasonably good short-term financial condition. He contributed, but he did not guide the center to achieve it. Indeed, in board meetings I attended, he repeatedly was unwilling to acknowledge troublesome trends, focusing instead on month-to-month changes or changes in the same month’s visits from one year to the next. Those fluctuations tended to be small (sometimes up, sometimes down), but it took the board’s insistence to examine trends over longer periods. I know this because I am the one who did the analyses and presented them to the board.
7. Saxon writes that “this board has decided to spend its way out of the mess it created by fatally depleting the endowment.” Unless the board has dramatically changed its behavior since I left it, that statement is just plain false. It is true that, at several points in the past, more funds were taken from endowment than anyone was happy with, but it was always because of special circumstances. Unfortunately, those circumstances — including recessions, capital investment needs, and other matters — will continue to occur. That is why the center’s current situation is not sustainable in the long run.
8. Mr. Saxon says that the “island has lost trust in the decision-making ability of this board.” If some islanders have, indeed, lost trust in this board, it is in large part because of the innuendo and misinformation spread by people like Mr. Saxon; and the board’s inability to respond fully to some of the charges that have been made against it. Indeed, in my view, the board should be commended for its commitment to honoring the terms of its non-disclosure agreement with Monty Stover. In fact, board members have been so scrupulous that the several members I have spoken with over the last few months about these issues have refused to share details with me even though I was a colleague for five years and know how hard they work — as volunteers, don’t forget — on behalf of the center and the community. At the same time, however, my understanding is that Monty has met with several Town Council members and, probably, others to present his side of the story while still refusing to give the board permission to present theirs. I leave it to readers to judge who has been acting ethically in this regard.
9. Finally, I can correct the record on at least one other point because it occurred during my time on the board. One of the most important responsibilities an executive has — especially in not-for-profit organizations — is to arrange for annual financial reports to be audited shortly after the close of a year. Yet, even when we were well into fiscal year 2010, the annual reports for 2008 and 2009 had still not been audited. Why? Because Monty had not prepared the materials necessary for the auditors to review. When they finally did get data to review, they asked questions which he took additional months to answer. The board offered to pay for help so that these could be completed without further delay, but he declined, saying it was not necessary. By the time the audits were completed, they were so late that the auditors said they could not fairly advise the board about problems that may have existed then and might have needed corrective action. Only one person is responsible for that inexcusable situation, and that person is Monty Stover.
I do not claim the board made no mistakes, but I do insist that, as fair-minded people, we acknowledge that they have worked diligently to achieve a single goal: maintaining and even strengthening the ability of the center’s able clinicians to continue to serve the needs of island residents and visitors. In that effort, I believe, they have largely succeeded in the short term and begun to lay groundwork for longer-term success. If they decided that the center would do better without Monty Stover as its executive director, I have no doubt they reached that conclusion reluctantly (because of the personal impact on him and his family) after careful consideration of the options. They may not have fully anticipated the nasty reaction that has occurred or the reprehensible personal attacks against individual board members, but in spite of that, all the members I have spoken with are convinced that, given the circumstances, they made the only decision they could responsibly have made.
Lee's Ridge Road and Brookline, Mass.
To: the Editor—
To my fellow residents and non residents, I urge you during these tough economic times to consider a gift to both the Block Island Medical Center and the Volunteer Fire Department. As a family we have donated to both organizations over a number of years. Perhaps you or your family have not considered a gift to either or both organizations.
Both the Medical Center and Fire Department need resident and non resident support. It matters not if you live on island year round, or seasonally as we do. You are aware of the great works that are provided by these two organizations and the importance to all in times of need.
During the holidays please open your mind, your hearts and check books to these two vital Block Island organizations.
Lee and Nancy Miles
Delray Beach, Fla., Block Island
To: the Editor—
It was clear to me in preparing and participating in the Deepwater discussion at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting that:
a) for more than two and a half years, the Town of New Shoreham has been maneuvering Block Island towards the Deepwater wind farm and cable,
b) it has done so in a deliberate unobvious way,
c) it has provided little opportunity for discussion on the concept as a whole,
d) it has provided embarrassing little justification for its position,
e) it has never expended the resources to investigate and motivate far less costly and more effective energy supply strategies for the community, and
f) it may have sold out the community for a short-term gain of an easement payment.
In response to this, I feel that those opposed to the project be provided a coordinated voice, similar to the one the First Warden attempted to create supporting the project. To that end, I have created an online petition in opposition to this project.
The opposition is based upon: a) overstated environmental benefits to Block Island, b) overstated and unsubstantiated economic benefits to Block Island, c) potential long term economic harm to Block Island, d) failure to pursue far less risky and superior renewable energy generation and energy conservation opportunities, which would leave far more money in the local economy, and e) lack of confidence in Deepwater’s experience to successfully manage such a project.
The opposition in the petition is not based upon aesthetics, effect upon property values, or noise, as these in my opinion are too subjective for me to write about or prove. However, the petition does allow the signator to add comments such as these.
I will place a link to the petition on my News and Events section of entech-engineering.com by Dec. 26. The web address will be: http://www.ipetitions.com/widget/view/silver/540687. Who knows, I may even figure out how to get it on Facebook.
Town Council, TNS
This letter was sent to the Town Council and copied to the Times:
I am a long time private equity investor and co-manage a firm with over $1 billion in equity capital. On behalf of my partners, I invest in most industries in the United States in early and late stage operations. It is my opinion that our community on Block Island is being inappropriately leveraged by a thinly-capitalized and nascent power developer because we are not yet connected to the mainland power grid.
The Joint Development Agreement between the State of Rhode Island and Deepwater Wind signed in January 2009 specifically states that the purposes and objectives of the Ocean Special Area Management Plan is to “foster a well-informed and committed public constituency”. It has been my mission now for three years to be well-informed and to be a vocal constituency of the public in order to ensure information made available to the public was analyzed and communicated to decision-makers and interested parties. On behalf of the residents of Block Island, you represent a few of those decision-makers.
Please be aware that Deepwater Wind and its capital providers stand to make over $127 million in profits from the power sold to National Grid under the pending Power Purchase Agreement. That represents fully 30 percent of every dollar paid for every megawatt of power to be generated by the proposed windfarm. These $127 million in profits is after taking into account (i) cost recovery for building the windfarm, (ii) operating and maintenance expenses, (iii) cash taxes, (iv) decommissioning costs, and (v) costs of the cable (which will be paid for or reimbursed by parties other than Deepwater). All for creating just six permanent jobs. $127 million for just six jobs. If you want citations for these datapoints, I can direct you precisely to them in PUC Dockets 4111 and 4185.
You may ask: “What should Block Island get for allowing five massive structures to destroy the natural preservation fiber that has been a part of this community for 35 years?” As far as I can tell at this point, it will be just $300,000 for easement rights. That’s it. Deepwater gets $127 million in profits and Block Island gets $300,000. That cable you are now thinking about is going to be paid for by others (whether it comes with a windfarm or not).
A stand-alone cable can be financed through revenue bonds, special tax assessments and power surcharges. And, we will all still have reductions in power costs with green power from the mainland by opting into National Grid’s “GreenUp” program (look it up) where we can all buy power made from wind, solar, biomass and other renewable sources. We can both get a cable without a windfarm and buy renewable energy through it.
If, however, you must support the windfarm, I would recognize the position that the council sits in and require Deepwater to take $25 million of those profits they stand ready to hoard and force the upgrade of the island’s obsolete power infrastructure and bury every single power line on the island. That would be a preservation initiative to be proud of. You are uniquely positioned to do so.
This letter was sent to the Town Council and copied to the Times:
Thank you for holding this public hearing. Please accept this as testimony on the Deepwater Wind applications before the Corps of Engineers, CRMC and DEM. I would appreciate your reading this into the record.
After more than three years of research, analysis, and personal participation in public processes specifically associated with Deepwater, it is very challenging to provide any kind of brief, meaningful and factual commentary on an application that consists of over 300 megabytes or seven 3-inch binders. For each chapter in the application, there is easily one potential issue for the island.
It is time for our newly constituted council to make informed decisions based on the facts. Unfortunately, staff again has not provided the council with substantive information or a suggested framework suitable for deliberation and decision-making. There have been no briefing papers on Deepwater. The only information that the town is in possession of are documents created by Deepwater to advance their project or recollections of conversations and promises from a revolving door of more than four CEOs/COOs over the past three years.
First and foremost, facts should inform the council's comments on behalf of all of us who call Block Island our home, regardless of how much time they spend on island. The challenge as I see it is that it is impossible in one three-hour meeting to make up for three years of doing little to gather independent information and analysis, to provide information to the public, and to solicit input from diverse interests on the island.
Upon reflection, my first exposure to the possibilities of an offshore windfarm occurred in June 2009, when a Danish scientist spoke at St. Andrew Parish Center. Afterwards, there was a setup so that we could see what one of the Danish wind turbines, 200 feet shorter than DWW’s at 650 feet, looked like at 8, 10, 12 and 15 miles. Most important was that absolutely no mention was made of a windfarm 2.6 miles off the bluffs.
It was several weeks later in July that Block Islanders were "given notice" when barges appeared close to shore. The town never initiated a single meeting to inform the public about Deepwater. And that's the way it has been. There has never been any independent analysis done by town staff or any consultant on a myriad of issues and potential impacts on behalf of the town. The only consultants used by the town were paid for by Deepwater Wind. There has been no town initiated effort to solicit public input such as an advisory ballot. Although surveys have been done by BIRA and the B.I. Land Trust, either misleading information and photos were presented or questions that would lead to pre-determined answers in support of offshore wind were used. The leadership of both bodies at the time of the surveys were vocal proponents of Deepwater Wind.
We all know that many people saw Deepwater as the only answer to getting a cable to the mainland that would assure reliable and less expensive electricity as well as providing consistent internet access. But the fact is that when Deepwater was unanimously denied by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission on March 30, 2010, the PUC stated that Block Island was long overdue for a cable. The PUC stated that they were committed to opening up a docket specifically for a Block Island cable and distribution service that would be paid for by all ratepayers in the state. The town leadership never informed the public of that reality, chose to undermine that effort and continued the rhetoric of a cable being financially impossible for Block Island.
Although the Electric Utilities Task Group has devoted much time to this project, its majority has been very vocal DWW proponents and have allowed their biases to totally ignore the PUC’s offer of a cable in 2010 at the annual expense of $2 million for a total of $6 million by island ratepayers thus far.
The way I see it, the council has very few facts by which to make any substantive comments. There is one fact that we all can agree upon and applaud — the reduction of burning diesel on the island for island electricity. However, we have assumed that BIPCo will maintain its generators for island backup solely... has any thought been given to BIPCo providing backup to the mainland?
Then there is opinion presented as fact. One popular opinion is that Deepwater will result in the island being totally green. That is not the case. The fact is that most of the electricity used on Block Island will not be from wind power. Ratepayers can enroll in the GreenUp program where they choose how much of their electricity they would like to come from renewables and then they pay a premium commensurate with what amount they have designated.
And what other issues might occur if Deepwater proceeds? What is the council's individual and collective knowledge of the Renewable Energy Zone, the only one designated in all of Rhode Island's ocean waters, that wraps around the island from southeast Block Island all the way to Southwest Point? It appears that 40 or more turbines can be constructed within three miles of the island's coastline.
Based on the absence of any town comprehensive project analysis and public information process, plus the well-documented corrupted state public processes that resulted in DWW’s approval, I don't believe that the council is in any position to comment on the application other than to say there are a great many issues for Block Island, some known and some unknown — but all needing to be identified and analyzed for impact both probable and possible. Perhaps the best and most responsible approach is to ask for an Environmental Impact Statement to be completed.