Town to submit testimony on InterstateCouncil concerned about increase on truck rates
The Town Council is expected to send its official position on the draft agreement between Interstate Navigation and the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers on Friday, March 22.
In this testimony, Richard LaCapra, a consultant for the town, will say that the town will “reluctantly accept” a 34 percent across-the-board increase on freight rates, according to a motion made by First Warden Kim Gaffett at the council's March 20 meeting. Interstate had originally requested a 65 percent across-the-board increase. The town has authorized LaCapra to file the town's position.
As directed by the council, LaCapra will also request that the town and Interstate hire a third party consultant to review the company’s freight charges within the next year.
“Freight rates play an important part in the community, and they affect everybody,” said island resident Cliff McGinnes from the audience at the council meeting.
A joint draft agreement between the ferry company and the Division proposes to raise Interstate’s earning cap by $580,000, money that will come from changes in various ferry rates.
Council members also expressed concern over an increase on large truck rates. In the draft agreement, rates for trucks are proposed at $6.10 per linear foot. Currently, the rates are $4.90 per linear foot.
“The majority of our freight comes on truck,” said Town Councilor Norris Pike. “I think, potentially these truck rates are going to have more affect on cost of living on Block Island than any commuter rate would.”
According to the draft agreement, Interstate can also choose to raise or decrease some prices by up to 10 percent throughout the year without having to return to the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for approval. It cannot change prices on commuter rates or freight — but it can change prices on truck rates.
The council voted to support an even higher flexibility margin of pricing change — 20 percent — that can be added to the final agreement. However, the town will request that truck rates not be affected by this increase.
The agreement will be sent to the PUC and, if approved, will go into effect on May 24. The PUC is a regulatory agency overseeing energy and transportation, including ferry boats.
There will be a public hearing on the proposed agreement at Town Hall on Thursday, April 4, beginning at 12:15.