Letters to the Editor, March 30, 2013
To the Editor:
I write in response to Block Island Residents Association (BIRA) President William Penn’s letter to this paper published in the March 16 edition. Maybe he didn’t mention he holds this position because it isn’t relevant, but I say differently. Mr. Penn often cites a dated BIRA survey related to the Deepwater wind farm. Additionally, most people know he serves as President of BIRA and reminds us often of his political capital as a member of the island’s Electric Utility Task Group and chairman of the Historic District Commission. BIRA’s website indicates that any individual residing on Block Island all or part of the year shall become a member of the association with all the privileges that pertain thereto. Someone serving as the President of BIRA should know better than to characterize any residents as seasonal or otherwise and dismissing the thoughts and inputs from one group of BIRA membership versus another. Shame on him for trying to divide the wonderful people (seasonal and year-round) on this tiny slice of heaven.
I also take offense that seasonal residents can’t grasp issues confronting year-round residents. I am a landowner on Block Island, and the island has been part of my life for over 20 years. I may not hold any advanced degrees in finance that Mr. Penn has, but I can certainly read a newspaper, and I have taken the opportunity to speak to year-round residents, some of whom, in plain English, explained to me what the hardships are for them. Are the turbines going to put more ferries on the winter schedule? Are the turbines going to create jobs during the off season? How about lowering the deer population? How will the turbines help create affordable housing?
Mr. Penn mentions the 1,800 BIPCo customers that could never afford to pay for a standalone cable. But, the R.I. Public Utilities Commission can socialize the costs of the cable (see existing Public Utilities Commission Docket 4179) just as easily (and for a lot less money) as it has allowed socialization of the construction costs and Deepwater’s $683 million in revenues for the next 20 years. How about instead of wringing our hands, we investigate Deepwater a bit further, question their motives, and take a stand for what is one of the most beautiful and, at this moment, vulnerable places on earth?
I would like to end with a quote from the New Shoreham Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2002, updated in 2009. Under the Preamble, it reads (emphasis mine): “Do we endeavor to influence and control further change so as to preserve as much as possible of the qualities that give Block Island its unique character?”
Corn Neck Rd., and White Plains, NY
To the Editor:
I never thought it would happen but the Old Harbor Task Force is happy to announce that Esta’s Park is sold out of bricks! The park has been restored and made better than ever. We now have plenty of seating and some of it is even in the shade. The plantings and grasses are growing well and we added daffodil bulbs this past fall, which will look fabulous in another year or two. The park is as popular as the Task Force hoped it would be, but the Lobster Pot Christmas Tree, I am happy to say, far exceeded our expectations in popularity!
We sold over 500 bricks. Along with the many generous donations made, the brick sales resulted in Esta’s Park being completely paid for with private money and with enough money left over to establish an endowment fund to help defray the costs of maintaining the park over the coming years. Each year weeding, fertilizing and mulching must be done, along with necessary plant replacement and repairs to the park structures.
On behalf of the Task Force, I want to thank both residents and visitors for your help and support of the park. We could not have done it without you!
The Old Harbor Task Force is currently working on concept plans for Pole Harbor Beach Park across from the National Hotel. We hope to do a patio with engraved stones around the benches, so if you did not get your brick, you will have another opportunity next year.
To the Editor:
I would like to let you know that we are in favor of the Deepwater Wind project. We have lived on Block Island for over 30 years and have two small restaurants, which really feel the pressure of the increasing power bills every month.
One reason that we support the wind farm is the economic gain Block Island will receive from reduced electricity rates.
As you know, our kilowatt and fuel surcharges are among the highest in the United States, which really impact the business community on Block Island. Because of this, some of our local businesses are threatened with insolvency.
The opponents to the project are mostly summer homeowners who are not impacted in the same manner that we restaurant owners and other retailers and trade-related businesses are.
Block Island thrives on tourism. Without restaurants, retail shops and other activities there would be no reason for visitors to come to Block Island. And there certainly would be no need for a ferry. Let’s keep Block Island growing and proceed in the right direction.
Please help us move forward with the wind project.
Kathleen S. Szabo
To the Editor:
I am looking at my February bill from the Block Island Power Company (BIPCo). The bill totals $159.92 for the month, at 42.8 cents per kilowatt, plus a customer charge. It is broken into three parts: 1) Energy charge: $31.40; 2) Fuel cost adjustment: $116.16; 3) Customer charge: $12.38. The way BIPCo gets to the first two figures is as follows: We used 345 kilowatts for the month. The energy charge was 9.1 cents per kilowatt. (this charge triples to 34 cents from June through September). The fuel surcharge was 33.7 cents per kilowatt. In other words, better than 3 out of every 4 cents billed for electricity was for oil. In this case an additional 8 percent is tacked on for the privilege of being a “customer.”
Without a cable we cannot have our power come from other sources such as natural gas, hydro or atomic energy. We are totally dependent on diesel fuel delivered by truck to the boat (and also note that the ferry freight charge is about to go up by 34 percent, and yes, the ferry gets to tack on their own fuel adjustment charge!) By comparison customers of National Grid just across the water have been paying less than 16 cents of late including a $4 customer charge. A friend in Charlestown paid $143. For 955 kilowatts (nearly three times our usage for the same month — and National Grid does not get the summer bonus surcharge that BIPCo gets).
To overcome this we need a cable. We have known for a long time that a cable is essential to stable electric costs on Block Island. The question is “who pays?” Twenty years ago the cost for a cable was estimated at over $10 million. Today’s cost, because of inflation and ever increasing regulations and permitting fees, has mushroomed to several times that cost. Standalone costs borne entirely by the ratepayer were prohibitive 20 years ago at $10 million. They are out of the question at today’s figures. Bottom line is that without Deepwater underwriting the cost of a cable we will continue to have the highest electric rates in the country. As an added bonus, a connection to the mainland will bring us high speed internet and cable TV alternatives.
The price — interference with the ocean view, that some say is too high to pay. A number of years ago, before Deepwater Wind came on the scene, when Cape Wind (off Nantucket) was in the headlines, my wife Claire and I were in Ireland and heard of an offshore wind farm about 40 miles south of Dublin, so we drove down to see it. Now, I’m not a betting man, but having seen an offshore wind farm firsthand, I think a case could be made that we will have more visitors come to the island to see it than will be repulsed. Times change: majestic tall ships and graceful sailing sloops were a lot more pleasant to look at than today’s container ships and supertankers.
Deepwater Wind has already advanced several millions of dollars to bring us that cable. We need to support their efforts.
To the Editor:
Hello, to all of our Block Island seniors! Yes, that’s you if you are over 50. Just remember that you are as young as you feel and if you are alive and kicking, it is never too late to feel even younger!
We have some news for you, but first an apology. Due to space issues, “Adventures on the Island” did not make it into last week’s Block Island Times and with the crazy lack of internet here on the island, many of us were left in the dark as to last week’s activities. So I do apologize. Moving forward, this leads perfectly into the changes that we’re making.
We have something for everyone. For those of you who love to hold a paper in your hand, there is always the Block Island Times, which faithfully publicizes the weekly pulse here on the island. If you are more of a technical person, you can subscribe to the Block Island Times online. What’s new is that we are no longer having a separate column from the Senior Advisory Committee. We are moving in the direction of combining all of the island’s activities into one section, so we can all be checking the same places and be sure not to miss anything! So, if you want to know what’s happening each week with numerous organizations check the section “All Around the Block.” If you wish to know what special, one-time events the Senior Advisory Committee is hosting, check for them in “Off The Block” and “On The Block.” They will be there with all of the other sensational activities that you will want to enjoy.
If you love to plan ahead and wish to know what is happening in advance, then go online to the Block Island Times and look under the “Calendar” section. You will notice that more and more groups are posting their events here. This is great news since we all want to support each other!
Thank you for enjoying my column and for joining us in the many wonderful activities that your Senior Advisory Committee has been hosting! As always, if you have any questions or comments, you know I would love to hear from you, so please call or email me. Thanks and see you soon!