Citing loss of revenue, Murphy Auto stops car inspections

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 6:00pm
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Citing a seemingly never-ending list of regulations, requirements, equipment needs and loss of revenue, Murphy Auto owner Rob Murphy has said he is no longer doing the two-year safety and emissions testing car inspections on the island.

Murphy said he is still doing the one-year inspections for heavy duty trucks, as well as mopeds, tractor trailers and motorcycles, but after 14 years of inspecting cars and losing cash, he said he’s had enough. Murphy Auto is the only state-licensed inspection station on the island.

“I would never step out of this if it wasn’t a major money loser,” said Murphy. “Isn’t that ridiculous? Something on Block Island losing money? I mean, the losses are phenomenal.” He said the inspections have “overwhelmed me and my shop.”

Murphy said he is still doing repair work, which was the original focus of his Ocean Avenue shop, but over the years he said he’s inspected hundreds of cars. The inspections can take up to two hours, and the state has put a $55 cap on what can be charged for the inspection.

In a practical sense, the major impact for island residents is that cars registered on Block Island will need to go off-island for their inspections.

First Warden Ken Lacoste said he had heard the rumor, but wasn’t sure if there was a political solution to the matter.

“I’m not sure there is anything the council can do about this. It’s unfortunate, but I’m not sure,” he said. Lacoste said that if a solution could be found and “it was something we could support, and if it works for Robbie” then it might be considered.

Murphy said he would be open to the idea of some kind of financial support from the town to underwrite the cost of doing the inspections, but Lacoste said the situation was a “private sector issue.” Lacoste said perhaps someone in the community could come up with an idea.

The matter also puts the members of the New Shoreham Police Department into the mix, because owners of uninspected cars receive a notice from the state that their registrations will be suspended if the car is not inspected. “That’s not something we can ignore. It’s not an option,” said Police Chief Vin Carlone. Having grown up and worked in Narragansett before coming to Block Island, he said residents could contact him because he may be able to make arrangements to get a car inspected on the mainland. “I might be able to get someone to pick a car up at the boat,” he said. “I could recommend somebody,” he said, while adding “it’s a tough situation.”

State Rep. Blake Filippi said the solution would need to come from and be supported by island residents before the legislature stepped in. When asked if the state could provide relief to the town on the price cap for the inspection fee, he said he would support whatever remedy the town decided on. “The town has to figure out a way,” he said. “If you need something from the state, we’ll support it in any way we can.”

State Sen. Susan Sosnowski said she was concerned about the situation, but echoed Filippi’s remarks. When it comes to island issues, she said, “I always turn to the council to see where they want to go.”

Murphy, for his part, said he wasn’t happy about giving up the service. 

“The last thing I want to do is not help somebody,” he said.