Letters to the Editor, Aug. 17, 2012

Sat, 08/18/2012 - 4:49pm

To: the Editor—

Regarding the idea of a new hi-speed ferry to link Block Island and Newport: There have been all sorts of proposed transportation options to get to Block Island, such as the Newport hi-speed ferry, Fall River ferry, and subsidized flights from T.F. Green.

What visitors and residents really need is a summer Friday late boat from Point Judith at 8:30 or 9 p.m. that would assure travelers a much higher chance of sleeping in their planned beds. A Friday late boat would increase hotel visits, as fewer would-be visitors would be stranded on the mainland.

Even Fishers Island has a 9:45 p.m. on summer Fridays!

Tim Dowling

Lakeside Drive and Rye, N.Y.

To: the Editor—

Thank you Monty — you, such a private person — for your openness, transparency and forthrightness in your August 11 letter to the B.I. Times. Many of us are saddened that the callous exit forced upon you by the BIHS Board prompted the letter in order to deny any suspicion of malfeasance that such harsh and sudden dismissal might suggest.

Your letter was in stark contrast to the tone-deafness, detachment and stonewalling of the BIHS Board at the Town Council meeting of Aug.1. The board members spoke with their backs turned to us — the community — with absolutely no recognition of the shock, outrage and concern the community was feeling and expressing.

That being said, now that some time has passed, it is time for everyone to take a deep breath and get beyond the initial shock and outrage. However, this can only take place if the BIHS Board makes an honest effort to explain the facts to the community. Instead of hiding behind legalities, let them and the council find a way (legally, of course) to make those facts come to light. If they made a mistake in the way they handled Monty’s dismissal, let them acknowledge it and take the high road by expressing regret.

BIHS board members are volunteers who usually give so much time, effort and caring to our community, and a mea culpa along with supplying the facts could go a long way towards starting a much-needed healing process.

I also want to thank the Block Island Times for their balanced and thorough reporting and for printing so many letters of opinion, recognizing that a community in turmoil needs a forum to express itself.

Nicki Closset

West Side

To: the Editor—

I served on the board of the Block Island Medical Center for 11 years, and I have purposely refrained from public comment regarding the recent change of personnel at the Medical Center.

If my name has been used in any printed material regarding this matter, it has been without my knowledge and without my consent. Until now.

The most recent Executive Director of the Medical Center is, in my estimation, a person of enormous integrity who has demonstrated over the years his absolute dedication to the wellbeing of the Medical Center. He deserves to be honored

The Board of Directors of the Medical Center has the ongoing challenge of maintaining and improving operations at the Medical Center year round in the face of steadily shrinking revenues. They are hardworking volunteers dedicated to the Medical Center’s mission to provide care.

We all — residents, seasonal residents, visitors — need the Medical Center. I became a year round island resident two years before the Medical Center opened its doors. At times I have wondered about decisions made and have sometimes taken issue with them. Sometimes, upon learning more, I have revised my opinion. I have served on boards at the Medical Center when opinion was nearly always unanimous, and at other times when it was sharply divided.

The fact remains that the Medical Center continues to provide all of us with urgent and primary care by excellent medical professionals every time we need it. The Medical Center needs and deserves our support.

Fran Migliaccio

Sands Pond Road

To: the Editor—

In the controversy over Monty Stover’s exit as executive director of the Block Island Health Services, the assumptions people have made in the absence of information are very disturbing. Because this is a personnel matter, the health center board believes it is constrained from discussing the particulars of their action. Yet, they have been castigated by many for failing to “earn the public’s trust” by explaining their decision. In my view, their willingness to endure the pain of the personal insults they are receiving from neighbors is worthy not only of trust but of admiration.

The fact is that, for reasons the rest of us do not know, the board — unanimously, we are told — concluded that the center would be better served if Monty were no longer the executive director. Why they came to that conclusion, the timing of their action, and why they did it in the way they did, we do not know. Nonetheless, much of the community has assumed that Monty could have done nothing to warrant the board’s decision and that, therefore, the board is guilty of over-reaching.

Like many other sectors of the economy, health care is evolving rapidly and, among other things, is becoming more dependent on technology. In other fields, it is not uncommon for CEOs who have guided successful companies to be replaced by new leaders more appropriate for the new challenges the company will face in the coming years. In the absence of information, it is not unreasonable to think that may be what happened here.

We know Monty as a decent, hard-working friend and neighbor who may have served the health center well for years. But we also know the board members. In addition to the general knowledge many have of who they are, I know from having served with them for five years as an elected board member, that all of them take their obligations to the center seriously and that they do not make decisions hastily.

If Monty was asked to resign for “lack of performance,” as he wrote in his letter to the Times, I can imagine that the board may simply have reached the conclusion that, if the center was to move forward in addressing the daunting challenges of the changing health care system, it needed new staff leadership. Remember, the center already earns only about half of its budget from payments received for the services it provides. If it cannot modernize its systems and change its practices, that figure is likely to shrink still further.

Without knowing the details, my assumption is that the board acted after having conscientiously considered their legal responsibility for the center’s viability and after having reviewed not only the alternatives, but also the likely impact on Monty personally. Moreover, I would be surprised if that consideration took less than several months. (To us on the outside, it seems precipitous, but I doubt that it was to the board members themselves.) Finally, my assumption is that they reached the conclusion that they needed to make a change and acted reluctantly, but decisively.

Why is it so hard for others to make similar assumptions?

Steve Davidson

Lee’s Ridge Road

To: the Editor—

Martha Ball mentions in her article of August 11 that the U.S. Coast Guard barque Eagle is the only square-rigged ship in active U.S. government service. However, in March I visited Boston and went on a navy personnel guided tour of the USS Constitution (a frigate, square-rigged). The navy seaman clearly stated that that ship is in active naval service and does leave port from time to time.

Patrick R. Hodgson (11 years old)

Toronto, Ontario

To: the Editor—

It seems there is more trouble in paradise. I have been asked by a number of senior citizens to bring a few complaints to the Sewer and Water Commission. Both have to do with billing, which is done at Town Hall but actually begins at both plants.

First came a complaint of excessive use of water, like 13,000 gallons in five days, in a small commercial establishment, where only one toilet is in use maybe a few times a day. The 80-year-old senior who owns the business was told it was a leaking toilet, he has to pay the $600 bill and the penalty, it was a done deal, and “we make no exceptions.”

However there never was a leaky toilet, and if there was, that’s 2,600 gallons a day, or about 110 gallons an hour. That toilet should have looked like Niagara Falls, yet the owner said nothing ever looked out of place.

There have been complaints of excessive water use. Maybe the homeowner left the outside shower running for three weeks? Or maybe the outside faucet was inadvertently left on for a month? But these two were forgiven, since the water apparently didn’t go down the sewer... I guess that’s the right thing to say if you have excessive use.

Most of our seniors, and I am one who fortunately still can use a computer, can’t argue forcibly and are afraid to make waves, especially on an island. If they have a small business in town and own the building, they pay outrageous electric bills for a few lights at the commercial rate, outrageous insurance rates if they are in the flood plain, which many are, outrageous property taxes at the commercial rate, and now outrageous water and sewer bills, again at commercial rates, on water that they didn’t use. Is it a wonder that we are driving our seniors — who have to make a living like all of us — off the island?

Another senior, this one approaching 88 years old, showed me a bill for three months of sewer use. The bill is usually around $25 a month and he pays it every six months or so because it is so small, but this time, after three months of no payment, he received a letter that his water was being turned off in five days if it wasn’t paid. The turnoff day was mid-July this year when the temperature was over 90 degrees. I paid the bill rather than let him die.

The Sewer Commission is now under the direction of Peter McNerney as chairman, having risen from vice chairman when Cliff McGinnes Sr was chairman but resigned this spring. There was some question of Mr. McGinnes being chairman while two of his sons were doing business with the sewer plant in different capacities. Peter McNerney rents for his propane business from Block Island Power Company, where Mr. McGinnes is part owner. Steve Draper, another commissioner, was given an exception for a few thousand dollars after a dispute with sewer billing this spring — so much for no exceptions. The plants have not been able to make any money, sounds sort of like the Medical Center, where Peter Tweedy is on the board of directors and also on the sewer commission. These financial problems should not be heaped on our senior citizens nor anyone else for that matter. Fix the problem!

There is a serious problem with electronic billing at the Sewer and Water departments. It is a drive by a meter reading system — if you drive too fast, bingo. We are tired of the leaky toilet excuse, although that could be valid on some occasions. I am not on the sewer nor the public water, but the property on which the “autonomous” sewer plant lies is town property, the long term bonding for the sewer plant is paid by all of us, the taxpayers, and the billing is done by Town Hall. There is now a call for all of the directors of the Medical Center to resign, so wake up Sewer and Water commissioners.

As a final note, there was a serious sewer spill again last week, four hours of raw sewage into the waters of the Hog Pen from a manhole on the street. The Salt Pond is again closed to clamming, meaning the town can’t sell shellfish licenses, creating lost revenues — and on prime time. It’s deja vu all over again.

John Willis

Beacon Hollow Farm

This letter was sent to the Town Council and copied to the BIT:

On May 29, I sent a letter to the Town Council requesting enlightenment from you on three matters. My letter was listed on the June 20th Town Council agenda as: “Correspondence: Frederick Nelson re: Heinz Field fertilizer.” Minutes of the meeting show that the response to this letter was: “No action was needed or taken regarding the correspondence.”

There was no vote, just the dismissal of the letter. Is it the normal practice of the council to bypass correspondence that contains questions or concerns pertinent to the operation the town’s governance? I certainly hope that this is not the case.

To repeat, the three matters of concern to me are:

1. Validation from the Land Trust for their insistence on using organic fertilizer on Heinz Field at the added cost of 300 percent over the cost of “synthetic” fertilizer has not been requested — or demanded. This is especially pertinent since, to my knowledge, the Land Trust has no members with education, experience or knowledge in athletic field management.

2. Language in the agreement with the Land Trust states: “New language in the Land Management Policy allows for the Trustees to approve of the use of synthetic fertilizer products on a particular property if it is determined that they are needed. The burden would be on the Town to show why a synthetic product is needed.” Is not the added cost of organic products enough of a burden to show the need for synthetic products with the town budget under the current financial restraints?

3. If the above statements cannot be answered in a positive manner, then the question is whether the Land Trust/town agreement has any legal basis in the first place. Has this agreement been reviewed, with approval, by the town attorney? If the attorney hasn’t been a party to this agreement then perhaps the Town Council should solicit her advice as to the legality whereby the Town Council is subject to directives from another town body.

Frederick H. Nelson

Beach Avenue

To: the Editor—

Saturday evening, August 4, the 18th annual Mary D. Ball was held under the tent at the Sullivan House, and what a ball it was.

Walter McDonough had the “Irish jiggers” on the dance floor with his great Irish tunes. Guests enjoyed Walter’s music as they lined up to fill their plates from the bountiful and beautiful buffet prepared by Sean and Rosalie O’Brian Kivlehan. It was a feast, indeed, right from the pasta and lobster to the salad and dessert. I can’t thank them enough.

Sean Dugan was next to take the “bandstand,” and his music got everyone moving, young and old. Everyone was dressed to have a ball, especially the young girls in their pretty dresses and the young boys all spiffed up. It all made me hope this was the start of an annual family affair — that would be fantastic.

The ball was a financial sucess, also, the best ever. I always mention that I administer the fund but all of you are the fund. And what a fund you are! Thanks for always helping to care for our Block Island friends and neighbors. You help to keep them warm, help keep their lights on, help with medical and dental bills and even help with rent and mortgage payments. Remember, each time you give to the fund, you leave a little of yourself on the island — what better place to leave it? I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Mary D. and co-chairs Sean McGarry and Chris & Molly O’Neill

Mary D. Ball