Frustration with new moped agreement

Fri, 08/05/2022 - 3:00pm

The Town Council on Monday couldn’t avoid frustrating an already frustrated public even more. The meeting was held the day after the 30-year “moped settlement agreement” expired on July 31. Renegotiating that agreement is underway, but the conversations are happening behind closed doors as litigation is ongoing between the parties. There are currently five moped
rental businesses on the island, each allowed to rent up to 34 mopeds at a time.
“After consulting with our counsel,” said First Warden André Boudreau, “there are certain things we can say in public at this time. I would say the statement: ‘the Town Council’s highest priority with respect to the mopeds is the health and safety of the community. The settlement agreement restricts the ability of the town to protect the community,’ and quite frankly,
I think this is unacceptable.”
Allowing the agreement to expire means that the town may go to the R.I. General Assembly and make a case for changing the original legislation allowing for rental mopeds on Block Island. One allowance granted under the legislation is that unlike moped riders on the mainland, riding their own machines, renters are not required to have a motorcycle license from the Division of Motor Vehicles.
Councilor Mark Emmanuelle called for a public forum on the subject, and many members of the public were at the meeting to show their concerns. He suggested a meeting where the Town Council would only listen – a “listening fest,” he called it.
“That is not the advice of our counsel,”
said Boudreau, who added he did not want to put such a forum on the agenda.
One of the town’s attorneys, Nicholas Solitro said that they did not want to have a forum before the expiration of the agreement where the Town Council members might express their personal opinions. He said he had less of a concern if it was a listening-only meeting.
Despite pleas from the public, citing the passion and frustration of residents Boudreau said: “It’s not a matter of not listening. We’ve all lived this for 30 years.” He continued, “We can go into a meeting with good intentions, but it doesn’t always end well.”
Boudreau also said that the council had listened to the public on the issue and they had incorporated some of their ideas and concerns into the negotiations. “I don’t want to take the risk of injuring our position, and I think that could possibly happen in a forum like that with the passion people have about mopeds.”
The council seemed split on whether to hold a forum but in the end agreed to hold one. It is scheduled for August 17 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall.
Mopeds aren’t the only thing members of the public expressed their frustration about at the meeting. During the public comment portion, Cindy Lasser of Calico Hill again implored the council to do something about the parking situation on Old Town Road between the Historical Society and the intersection of Chapel Street.
She said that now cars were parking even beyond that and up the curved incline of the road going towards Town Hall. Lasser said that since she was last at a council meeting a month ago, she hadn’t heard anything about it from the town or the Police Department. “It’s deadly serious,” said Lasser. “And nobody minds getting a ticket.”
She has noticed that many people park all day, indicating they are working somewhere downtown. The Block Island Times has also noticed that as long as the car is not straddling the white line marking the edge of the road, no tickets are issued. That area of the road has no signage either allowing or disallowing parking.
Resident Chris Blane said that now cars were parking on the other side of Old Town Road also. Both areas are grass shoulders that were not meant for parking. In some areas there are boulders on the grass to prevent parking, and Blane suggested either putting up signs or rocks.
Blane was also concerned about parking on the sandy shoulder between the Beachead on Corn Neck Road and Bridgegate Square, citing the dangerous situation where pedestrian and cyclists were forced into the road because the shoulder was taken up.

Finnimore and Fisher show cause hearing
Something that’s been on the Town Council’s agenda a few times in the past two months is a “show cause hearing regarding the potential Motorized Bicycle, Tricycle and Scooter license suspension for Finnimore & Fisher, Inc. dba Island Moped for an alleged violation of New Shoreham General Ordinance Section 8-82 Tags. Act on findings of fact and decision.”
Generally speaking, the violation was the rental of a moped that did not have the town-issued tags identifying the number of the moped and the dealer that rented it. The moped was stopped on May 21, 2022.
The process to get to the decision was quite formal, with Boudreau reading a series of charges and findings of fact. Finnimore and Fisher’s attorney, Mark Hagopian, wished to have a few things included in the record, and to slightly amend his closing argument issued previously. He said the reason was because of “things that had happened in the past 10 days….related to the liquor sting.”
Boudreau asked if his additions were about tags.
“It does not,” said Hagopian, “but there is a common legal issue.”
At first Boudreau did not want to allow it but Hagopian wanted it on the legal record “for Superior Court,” and Boudreau did allow it.
Regarding the “liquor sting,” which was described by police as a “compliance check” to see if bars were properly asking for proof of age before serving, and in which six out of seven bars visited on July 16 failed, Hagopian said: “These were serious violations of state law and they are different than the mistaken rental of a moped without a sticker. There was not one single show cause against any one of those license holders and in my opinion, that’s selective enforcement of the law.”
Hagopian said that the law requires the town to treat all license holders equally.
After Boudreau read the Findings of Fact, Councilor Keith Stover said: “Our counsel has told us pretty clearly that we have to impose punishments that are progressive and reasonable.” He then made a motion to suspend the license for two days and that it be held in abeyance until the council’s first meeting in October and “if there are no further violations, the suspension will be vacated.”
“I think that’s reasonable,” said Boudreau. The motion passed unanimously by the full council.
In other news, the council tabled the discussion to give “advise and consent” to the appointment of Christopher High as police chief until Thursday, August 4.