Utility election information sessions set

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 10:30am
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The first page of the Block Island Power Company’s candidacy form, which was mailed to prospective candidates with the June power bills.

The Block Island Power Company Transition Team has added a second public information session for those wishing to run for the new Block Island Utility District board of commissioners. The first date will be Saturday, July 15, from 3 to 5 p.m., and the second will be on Tuesday, July 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Both meetings will be held at Town Hall. The second date was added at the request of the Town Council, and even though it is the day after the deadline for declaring candidacy, anyone who cannot attend the Saturday meeting is encouraged to attend.

The board of utility commissioners will consist of five members, at least three of whom must be Block Island residents. Papers to declare candidacy were mailed out with June’s electric bills on June 6 and 7. To run for a position on the board, one must be a “qualified elector,” meaning that one’s name must be either on an active electric account, or that the candidate has been designated by a business, partnership, trust, or association to represent that account. Papers must be returned to Town Hall no later than 3 p.m. on Monday, July 17.

BIPCo Transition Team Chair Barbara MacMullan will present a “where we are now” segment to get interested candidates — and anyone from the general public who is interested – up to speed on what the new board will need to address. Such things will include the legal formation of the new entity and the obtaining of not-for-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service. 

Recognizing that obtaining not-for-profit status from the IRS could take some time, the Transition Team decided to confer with their tax advisors from Partridge, Snow and Hahn on how and if they could jumpstart the process.

Once not-for-profit status is obtained, the utility board may apply for financing to buy out the assets and liabilities of BIPCo. This task will include negotiating with BIPCo’s minority shareholder, Sarah McGinnes, who holds one third of the shares of the company. 

Another immediate task of the new board will involve designing a new rate structure. BIPCo President Jeffery Wright will make the presentation on what will be involved with that process. To inform the process, a full cost of service study will be conducted. Also informing the process will be data from the installation of smart meters, which were installed by BIPCo island-wide, a couple of years ago. The new rate case needs to be filed with the RI Public Utilities Commission in early November. 

The last audited financial statements for BIPCo were made available to the general public as part of the due diligence investigation performed last year in advance of the Financial Town Meeting, when voters were asked to approve the town’s purchase of two-thirds of the power company’s stock for $1.8 million. Those financials were for the fiscal year ending May 31, 2015. The Transition Team has decided to also make public the audited financial statements for the year ended May 31, 2016. Financials for the year that ended May 31, 2017 are not yet available, and have not yet been audited. 

The election for the utility district is scheduled for August and is being run by the Town of New Shoreham. Ballots will be mailed out at the beginning of August and counting will occur on Monday, Aug. 28. As of now, vote counting is scheduled for 3 to 5 p.m., and volunteers are needed. MacMullan said that it would be inappropriate for members of the Transition Team – some of whom are planning to run for the board — to participate in the count, as would be any employee of BIPCo.