The Block Island Times
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Town may meet with Interstate Navigation soon

By Stephanie Turaj | Jan 21, 2013
Photo by: Stephanie Turaj At the Wednesday council meeting, audience members could look at the agenda via projector screen, a suggestion given by councilor Chris Warfel at a previous meeting.

A fairly routine Town Council meeting on Wednesday, January 16, introduced a projector screen for the audience to view agenda items, one of which pertained to Interstate Navigation’s recent filing with the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for a rate increase.

Town Solicitor Kathy Merolla told the council that a possible meeting between Interstate and town consultants Everett Shorey and Richard LaCapra was being explored.

Merolla said that after speaking with the different parties involved, Interstate approached the PUC division to make sure it would accept a discussion between the ferry company and the town of New Shoreham.

“They’ve gotten preliminary interest,” she said. “And if that comes to fruition, a meeting will be scheduled in my office. It will be a settlement contest, which means it will be done under documentation to make sure that nothing that’s said by any party could be used against them in the actual proceedings.”

The two parties would discuss a proposal submitted by the town.

Part of this proposal would ask the ferry company to: earn a rate of return by moving to a revenue cap rather than a fixed-rate schedule, retain commuter rates and cards, add the high-speed ferries in the rate case, and maintain the current minimum off-season schedule.

Deer dollars

In other business, the council voted to reimburse hunters for 42 deer tags, a total of $525. It was reported that since the beginning of the hunting season, 11 hunters reported a total of 42 doe (female deer) taken.

Town Clerk Fiona Fitzpatrick noted that this is not necessarily a representation of all deer taken so far, as some hunters do not report. Gaffett added that some seek reimbursement at the end of the season.

Revisiting non-recusal

Council member Sean McGarry brought up a point of discussion from a previous council meeting at which the council appointed John Spier to the Planning Board. McGarry abstained from that vote because he thought that First Warden Kim Gaffett, Spier’s sister-in-law, should have recused herself. Gaffett did not, arguing that she did not stand to gain financially from appointing Spier.

At Wednesday’s meeting, McGarry offered information about why he thought Gaffett should have recused herself. “I’ve asked for this to be put back on the agenda to give you an opportunity to fix this,” he said.

Gaffett held her position, and council member Chris Warfel — who had voted for his brother John Warfel to serve on two town boards — agreed with Gaffett. However, both Gaffett and Warfel agreed to seek an opinion from the state Ethics Commission.

Miscellany

The council voted to add a West Side Road property, known as the estate of David K. Harrison (Plat 18, Lot 6-1), to the town’s historic district. Martha Ball, representing the Historic District Commission, spoke in favor of the change. Councilor Norris Pike and Second Warden Ken Lacoste voiced support for preserving the property.

Warfel asked Police Chief Vin Carlone how much average mileage the police vehicle logged per day (44 miles). Warfel explained that he has been looking into electric car options and places where an electric vehicle may be appropriate on-island. A general discussion about the cars took place.

At the beginning of the meeting, Warfel offered a public apology for comments he made at the last Town Council meeting about Harbormaster Steve Land. When the council was appointing town positions, and motioned to re-appoint Land, Warfel had critical comments about Land’s job performance. “They were misdirected and inappropriate,” he said.

Merolla updated the town on the status of “the triangle case” (pertaining to a conflict between the town and Ballard’s over land by Old Harbor). She explained that the date of a hearing has been postponed, and if anything comes out of that hearing, the town may then be asked to approve the settlement.

Merolla also discussed a pending legal case about property owner Joseph Pinney’s septic tank replacement. Pinney’s steel septic tank had been deemed inadequate according to the town’s 2000 ordinance. Don Thimble, town wastewater inspector, has been attempting to get Pinney to replace it since 2003. At a May council meeting, the town set in place a step-by-step repair schedule complete with fines if the deadlines were not met.

Pinney fell behind on deadlines, and the town took the matter to court. Pinney then picked up the progress again — and so at this meeting, the Town Council agreed to extend the time Pinney would be able to file a response to the courts.

The council voted to take no action on two items. One was a public notice from the state Coastal Resources Management Council regarding Deepwater Wind’s application for commercial wind leases; the council decided it was more of a bureaucratic matter of the CRMC not needing council attention.

The council also voted to take no action on a request by the Harbors Committee, which considered building a new office/bathroom facility in New Harbor. The committee requested that the council take some action and possibly form a building committee. Town councilors instead suggested the Harbors Committee first research needs, possibilities and details.

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