Cable, with or without wind farm, says council

Mon, 04/26/2010 - 4:00am

04/24/10 - The Town Council voted Wednesday to pursue both a stand-alone cable and the possible revival of the Block Island wind farm in order to get the island connected to the mainland power grid.

From the audience, David Lewis urged the council to take advantage of the Public Utilities Commission offer to pursue a cable to the island, and said there was a good chance that there would be a way to finance the project to make it cost effective for island ratepayers.

First Warden Kim Gaffett agreed and said “there is no reason not to take full advantage of [the PUC’s] listening ears.”

Deepwater Wind liaison Bryan Wilson provided the council with a brief overview of how Deepwater estimated the cost of a cable, as he had to the Electric Utility Task Group the previous Friday, (see related story on page 4). Wilson estimated that a stand-alone cable would cost approximately $40 million.

Wilson also reported that electric bills of Block Island ratepayers could decrease by as much as 40 to 50 percent if the Block Island wind farm was constructed.

Council member Peter Baute expressed his support for pursuing the stand-alone cable but also said that he thought the wind farm was a good opportunity to receive the “substantial external subsidies” that are needed to fund the project.

“I think that we should keep both doors open, not just the one,” Baute said.

The other council members agreed and voted to both participate in the PUC docket but also to send a letter to the Legislature in support of reviving the Block Island wind farm.

Deer dates

The council set deer hunting dates for next season, which were recommended by the Deer Task Force.

“The Deer Task Force makes this recommendation in an effort to increase the total deer take,” Task Force Chair Mary Sue Record said. “But we are going slow so that we can bring the community along as we try to expand the hunting.”

The task force, in an effort to increase the number of deer taken, sought to expand the seasons for certain hunting methods. It recommended that the muzzleloader season, only open for one week last year, be open for the entire season. Task force member Chris Blane said that muzzleloaders take the most deer of any type of hunting in Rhode Island. Muzzleloader hunters took 17 deer during the island’s four-day season.

The task force also recommended allowing archery hunting on the weekends in November, which Blane was very much against. Blane explained that weekend hunting makes many island residents uneasy because that is when they like to walk the trails on the island.

“I don’t think the town should open any kind of hunting on the weekends,” Blane said. “I just think it’s a bad idea, the upside isn’t worth the possible ill will.”

The council voted to approve the task force’s recommendations with the exception of weekend hunting, which it thought should remain prohibited. The new season would also allow hunting during February school vacation, which has not previously been allowed.

Harbormaster intro

The Town Council formally introduced new Harbormaster Stephen Land. Gaffett expressed her optimism about Land’s future tenure and thanked him for his previous service as assistant harbormaster.

Chris Warfel, who operates an aquaculture business in the Great Salt Pond, stood to read his letter calling upon the council to investigate how Town Manager Nancy Dodge went about recommending the termination of the previous harbormaster as well as how she selected a new one. Warfel said that he felt the entire series of events had not been transparent.

The council took no action on Warfel’s request, but at the end of the meeting Dodge urged the council to address Warfel’s complaint. “Letting this type of thing fester will just make it worse,” she said.

In a separate matter, the council appointed former harbormaster Chris Willi to an alternate position on the Recreation Board.

Old Town Road

The council voted to allow Dodge to work with the Town Engineer Jim Geremia to determine the best use of funds for repairing and resurfacing Old Town Road. There is $250,000 available, which is not enough to completely repave the road. However, Dodge said the town will do more extensive repairs to the sections that are in particularly bad shape and put “skim coats” over sections that are in good shape.

A group of business owners on Dodge Street sent a letter to the council; in it they asked the town to erect a directory at the end of Water Street informing visitors of the businesses down Dodge Street. The council was sympathetic to the goal of directing more visitors down Dodge Street but explained that off-building signs are prohibited. They suggested the owners’ work with the Chamber of Commerce to look for other opportunities to increase foot traffic.

The council also approved its letter announcing that the Financial Town Meeting will be held May 3 in the school cafeteria.