Letters to the Editor, April 12, 2013
To the Editor:
Thank you to the many people who helped with the Annual Game Dinner. Even with school vacation and a major storm, we still had many people enjoying the food. Next year will be better.
We ask anybody interested to let us know in advance if they wanted to donate interesting food or their own talents. A new person this year was Linda Rondinone. Father Joe gave his annual “Sinfulness Reward” to her Chocolate-Raspberry Mousse Torte. Rick Lysik, with the able assistance of Hank Hewitt and Joe Pokraka, did the bulk of the cooking and serving. John Fournier gave us quiet-killed Bambi. Marci Mazzur, one of the token veggies, was good at collecting monies as usual.
John Jacobsen’s venison buffalo chili was well received. Monique Batchelder’s Block Island eggs were used for the Block Island frittata. John Barry’s venison stew barely came out before being eaten. Chris Warfel gave wonderful oysters. Father Joe, Father Garry, Pastor Steve and yours truly served and schmoozed.
There were others we are sure we have forgotten, but thank you for the help. As usual, the net funds went to the Manley-Old Timers Fund of Block Island Ecumenical Ministries. The fund supports senior services on the Island.
Cantor Elliot Taubman
Corn Neck Road
To the Editor:
According to the 2010 United States census, there were 265 people aged 65 and over living on Block Island. Since then, some of us have died and more of us have retired and moved here. So, for the sake of argument, one might conclude that currently there are at least 275 of us who are pleased to call Block Island home. The majority of us spend endless hours volunteering our time serving on the many boards and committees it takes to make and keep Block Island so special and unusual. As we age, it is imperative that we have the opportunity to stay and maintain our well being and not be a burden to the rest of the community. With that in mind, some of us sought the help of the Town Council and set about to develop a program devoted to the wellness of our ever-growing, aging population.
In the beginning, the Senior Advisory Committee was given $1,000 by the Town Council to subsidize and to help cover some of the expenses involved with activities, speakers, trips, etc. As we grew, we were given $5,000 by the Town Council to further develop programs aimed at exercise, nutrition, socialization and good health. We were thrilled and very fortunate to hire a highly qualified coordinator who, with her husband, has lived and raised their family right here on Block Island. One of our own, so to speak.
As with any new venture, it is important to try and offer a variety of events to test and meet the needs and demands of those participating. Some programs have been well attended, while others have not. Some trips had to be cancelled due to weather and some events were so popular they are scheduled to be repeated. Our new coordinator has willingly spent too many hours with little or no pay knowing just what it takes to create, hone and stabilize a successful program for seniors.
Statistically, between July 2012 and January 2013, this coordinator worked about 750 hours and has been paid under $3.10 per hour worked, well under half the minimum wage!
The current Town Council has refused to give the Senior Advisory Committee an increase in funds to continue to develop a program and/or to pay our coordinator a minimum wage. How can we possibly encourage this woman to continue to work for so little compensation? Please know that the Lunch Bunch and Soup Group programs are not paid for by the town but rather are subsidized by the participants and run by seniors who volunteer their time and monies. Currently, for the fiscal year of 2014, your Town Council has recommended that just over 100 children in our school receive an additional $83,872 over and above last year’s budget
Currently, for the fiscal year of 2014, your Town Council has recommended that the medical center receive an additional $37,000 over and above last year’s budget. Currently, for the fiscal year of 2014, your Town Council has recommended “no additional funds” for 275 senior citizens. Why?
Every community in Rhode Island has a senior coordinator. Just across the pond, Charlestown, Rhode Island, has a budget of $98,000 for their senior citizen program. Why does Block Island have a budget of only $5,000 for our senior citizen program? Keep in mind that the senior citizens on Block Island probably pay the greatest amount raised in taxes and generously support the many fundraising events of this community.
I urge you to attend the current budget meetings if possible but I beg you to attend the final budget vote on Monday, May 6, 2013. As the saying goes, “It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings!” and “ Remember, elephants never forget!”
To the Editor:
At a recent Town Council meeting a measure was voted in (with Kim Gaffett and Chris Warfel against it) to allow nighttime hunting on designated properties to reduce or eradicate the deer population on the island. It would allow, in theory, night hunting, baiting, jacking (use of lights), high powered rifles, silencers, all of which are against Department of Environmental Management (DEM) hunting rules and for good reason. They are all extremely dangerous. For two hours, opposing forces argued with even the Chief of Police, who stated “hunting is dangerous.”
Councilman Sean McGarry stated that “hunting and Block Island are quickly becoming a contradiction,” yet he then flipped and voted in favor of nighttime hunting. The pro-night proponents had no problem with high powered riflemen roaming their property or other people’s property between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Well, I do!
All of this is to reduce the deer herd and possibly Lyme Disease. Residents spoke of having Lyme three and five times, afraid to walk out of their house for fear of contracting Lyme. I have been here for over 40 years, walking with the deer and the ticks almost every day — no Lyme — nor has any member of my family had it. As a matter of fact, none of my animals have had Lyme Disease and I have 50 of them. My wife and I are concerned about walking the trails after October and before April and that is half of the year but that’s because of hunting — not Lyme disease.
We can deal with hunting to maintain a status quo of the deer population, but the frenzy manifested by the Deer Task Force is disturbing. Most members of the Task Force belong to the Garden Club and most members never allow hunting or night hunting on their own property. Again, I say most are not even here for the winter months during the hunt, but possessed with a notion of ridding every deer on the island with anything including high powered rifles and nighttime hunting. The one thing they don’t consider is safety.
I will do my best to lobby the DEM to prohibit the Block Island night hunt for the safety of all of us, not just for those with Lyme Disease.
Beacon Hollow Farm
To the Editor:
Some have been asking for four years now why the Deepwater Block Island Wind Farm needed to be sited a bit more than two miles from what many describe as some of the most pristine lands and waters in the Atlantic Basin. For the umpteenth time I will say the project is improperly sited.
Deepwater Wind claims they need to “demonstrate” that the technology works and that they need to “demonstrate” to the financial community the project works from a financing perspective. So they need to “fast track it” in state waters.
That’s of course nonsense, as the technology in the water working in Europe, and the Cape Wind project a little to the east of here, is almost fully financed.
Now we come to find out that the National Parks Service and Federal Aviation Administration (I have been asking about the project’s impact to air safety of Deepwater since 2009) have serious concerns with the siting of the project.
I generally don’t like to rely on the federal government, but it’s been clear from the start with this project that one needed to get outside the state of Rhode Island’s politics and engage independent and objective parties to ask significant questions regarding the siting of the project or if it should exist at all, as the National Parks Service has asked.
And I have to scratch my head as, according to this paper, the FAA is shutting down VOR radio towers across the country because they can’t afford the $110 million to operate and maintain them, but the U.S. Treasury will hand Deepwater Wind a check for over $50 million in tax credits if they can begin construction of this project by year’s end.
One wonders if the FAA and National Parks Service will be called NIMBY’s. If so, that’s quite a large back yard extending from Washington, D.C. to Block Island. Or maybe there are real issues and discussions this community needs to engage in with the developer, the state and federal agencies even today to properly site this project.
The following is a letter written to the Federal Aviation Administration and copied to The Block Island Times.
To the Editor:
I was a U.S. Navy pilot, flying both carrier-based jets and land-based aircraft all over the U.S. and Europe. I also was trained as an air traffic controller before being assigned to manage the air traffic control operation on an aircraft carrier for two years. In addition, I hold a commercial/instrument license and have flown a number of civilian aircraft, including Pipers and Cessnas and Beechcrafts, in the airspace along the Northeast coast.
In my professional opinion, these Deepwater Wind towers will not only be a direct hazard to aircraft in poor visibility, but they will disrupt the effectiveness of the radar systems relied on by both ships and larger commercial and military aircraft. They will each be the equivalent in height, with blades, of a 70-story building. As such, they will create blind spots for military and Homeland Security radars used to identify intruders, as well as local aircraft either in transit or arriving at/departing from Block Island.
Radars have a particularly difficult time dealing with a combination of moving and stationary objects (wind towers and boats and aircraft), and an even worse time dealing with targets that rapidly accelerate and decelerate, like the tips of wind turbine blades rotating, which varies according to their speed and the angle they are viewed from (which in turn varies according to wind velocity and direction). Doppler radar systems are limited to differentiating between a steadily moving object and stationary ones, or slow ones like clouds. The wind turbines will cause widespread radar target clutter that will often render it useless or induce it to give erroneous information. There is no radar system technology I know of that can deal with this type of problem in this kind of environment.
In addition, the nighttime aviation environment over the water, without reliable reference to horizon and land, is equivalent to IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) conditions even in clear weather. (The accident involving John F. Kennedy, Jr. is a good example of the hazards to Visual Flight Rules-only trained pilots.)
GPS WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) is a valuable source of navigational information, but is a single source that must be backed up by another independent one. In addition, it is expensive and is not employed on many general aviation aircraft. Regardless, it does not give any line of sight information on obstacles or other targets, and is more prone to human error because it requires data input from the user. And for every aircraft using it, there will inevitably be another that isn’t.
The quadrant on the Northern and Eastern side of Block Island will be particularly problematic for both navigation and collision avoidance with both the wind turbines and lack of a VOR in close proximity to the island’s airfield. An emergency medical evacuation, even by helicopter, in poor visibility or at night would be rendered difficult or impossible under these conditions.
These problems have been identified in other places already. For example, tests on the proposed Grand Bend Wind Farm indicate it could cause problems for Environment Canada’s weather radar station in Exeter, Ontario. The radar station provides southern Ontario with most of its weather information. Based on a consultant’s report, the project manager stated: “The issue is the rotation of the blades, in that it fools the radar into thinking there is some sort of weather system there and my understanding is at this point Environment Canada does not have the computer software that’s able to filter that out like they can some other things.”
He adds that some form of mitigation will be necessary to allow the wind energy project and radar station to co-exist. The report lists options like the use of specialized stealth turbine blades, moving the turbines, moving the radar station or turning the turbines off on days when Environment Canada needed to use the radar to issue weather warnings.
In addition, the UK has been grappling with the impact of wind turbines on Air Traffic Control radars. Raytheon has come up with a number of partial, and expensive, solutions, but they do not address anything but the effectiveness of land-based systems. For example, by adding a second receiver ahead of the signal processor, Raytheon has been able to add target detection to the radar’s weather channel task. “Gap filling” or “3D holographic radar” has also been experimented with, but again, it only deals with land-based systems.
Here at home, the Navy has expressed concerns as well about interference with its operations at the Patuxent Naval Air Station, complaining about radar clutter in a widespread area.
In the case of Block Island, we have more than a weather station to consider. Consequently, it does not appear that there is any way to eliminate the impact without a significant change in the location of the project.
Benjamin C. Riggs, CAPT, USN (Ret.)
To the Editor:
Kudos to all who have written letters to the editor expressing their opinions on the Deepwater Wind farm! Regardless of position pro or con, I have found many to be heartfelt and genuine in the sharing of experiences, observations, hopes and their love of Block Island. Regardless of how much time we spend on the island, year-rounders or cottagers, we should be mindful that although we support each other in different ways, that our commitment and focus is for the collective good.
With that goal in mind, we should all be willing to be understanding and respectful of each other, even in sometimes heated disagreement.
However, when it comes to town council decisions, there is an obligation to be factual. That was not the case in a March 23 letter to the editor describing the final agreement reached with Deepwater regarding an easement at Town Beach stating that the easement duration was from October to May 15.
In 2012, the town council took two votes on an agreement with Deepwater Wind regarding the cable landing and associated permanent and temporary easements at Town Beach, one vote in June and a second one on Nov. 14.
In late September, or early October, Deepwater asked for an extension of time for construction at the beach. Although they asked for seven more days of construction, the sleight of hand here is that they really asked to extend their ending time from May 15 to the last week of June — which is approximately a six week extension.
We all know that by the end of June, our tourist season has begun and beach activities increase substantially, especially if the weather cooperates and the forecast is promising. When the issue of potential delays was posed at a council meeting, those concerns were dismissed as unwarranted or ‘we’ll deal with it when if happens!” So, for the record, in a 4-1 vote, only Town Council member Lacoste voted against this extension.