Letters to the Editor, Aug. 31, 2012

Mon, 09/03/2012 - 3:21pm

To: the Editor—

On July 28 this paper wrote about the possible closing of the Empire Theatre due to the required upgrade by the film industry for digital projection. In the August 25 Business Section of the New York Times, an article called “Resort Towns Face a Last Picture Show” outlined how this forced technology change is threatening the closure of small independent theaters across the country.

In my online research, I’ve discovered communities that are raising funds for the purchase of a digital projector to save their local theatre, generally privately owned mom and pop operations like ours.

Since the B.I. Times article came out, many people have approached me saying what a loss it would be and offering support. This has been very encouraging and we are working on launching a fundraising campaign in the next month or so. A part of this will involve a new website for the theater.

In the meantime, anyone who wishes to make a donation towards a new digital projector can send it to Empire Theatre, PO Box 1261, BI, RI 02807. If the campaign is unsuccessful, and we don’t raise enough to purchase the projector, donations will be returned.

It’s been a wonderful 20 years since I restored and reopened the Empire, and our family would love to do it for another 20.

For more info about the Empire Theatre go to: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/6419, and the Empire’s soon to be launched site, empiretheaterblockisland.com.

The Pollards

Empire Theatre

To: the Editor—

How I would have dealt with the Block Island Health Services crisis is a question I get asked frequently lately. And yesterday, as I sat and listened to still more excuses from our Town Council as to why they are doing little to nothing to resolve this crucial and lingering crisis, I decided I had had enough. Breaking from my intent of not “Monday morning quarterbacking” our existing council, I simply can’t sit back on this one any longer. It is too important an issue and it’s not getting any better.

On August 1, the Town Council held a meeting that we all believed was intended to inform the public of what exactly had happened to cause the abrupt and highly unorthodox firing of Monty Stover, the director of our Medical Center. The Block Island Health Services Board was in attendance, and it was clear that everyone expected an explanation from them.  However, that meeting proved unfruitful, as the First Warden continued a now tiring mantra, “… we cannot discuss personnel matters in open meetings,” a statement that is patently false. The Rhode Island Open Meeting Act [RIGL Tigle 42, Chapter 42-46] states that, “… a public body may {emphasis added} hold a meeting in closed session …” (under some conditions). The operative and very important word here is “may” — notably not “shall” or “must.” Simply stated, no public body in the State of Rhode Island is ever required to meet in closed session for any reason.  When they do, it is only because they have optionally decided to do so.

If that were not bad enough, during that same meeting the public learned for the first time that the agreement between the town and Block Island Health Services had expired in June of 2011, over a year ago, as unbelievable as that may seem. How the town manager and town solicitor allowed that crucial oversight is a subject for another day. It became clear to me at that moment what I would do if I were sitting at the council table. I would move that we exercise the duty of our Town Council and perform due diligence in managing our town affairs, and assume full and immediate control of the entire medical facility.

This would not only have been an appropriate action, but a necessary one. In the absence of any real leadership from the council, I see it as a duty, not only because of the long expired agreement, but also the obvious wishes of the public. In addition, I would have informed Monty that the actions of the Block Island Health Services Board of Directors were considered by the town to be null and void since they had no contractual authority to take any such action. With that, along with an apology to both Monty and the residents of Block Island, I would have hopefully turned the clock back a week or so, and restored our Medical Center and its director to their original condition. The operations of the center would be temporarily overseen by the Town Council, yet in good hands with Monty back in his office.

Then the task would have had to be undertaken to determine what form of contract we would need for the future management of the facility. All of that, I believe, could have been initiated on that Wednesday evening, August 1, 2012. I believe that clear and precise action by the First Warden and the council could have avoided much of the finger pointing that has gone on, and just fixed the problem so that we could all move forward. Having spoken very clearly on the subject, that is what the public wanted.

From my perspective, this proposed course of action was a simple one, being dictated by due diligence, not blame. This was no longer up to any personal opinions or the agenda of any individual Town Council member. And it certainly no longer had anything to do with a BI Health Services Board that had no contractual rights to have acted as they did. This is what the people wanted and demanded. It should have been a simple matter to execute those wishes, that night, the opportunity having presented itself.

This brings us back to today, the day after yet another meeting of the Town Council that has gotten us no closer to a resolution to the problem than we were a month ago. But it is not too late. I can’t make the motion for them, but I can certainly suggest it. The Town Council needs to immediately recognize that we have no valid contract with Block Island Health Services Inc. [It expired June 30, 2011.] The Town Council must take immediate interim control of the affairs of our Medical Center, hopefully with Monty’s acceptance of his immediate reinstatement, and then establish a new agreement with some board or commission to manage the facility. Pressure off… the will of the people acted upon… and we move forward from there.

That is what I would have done. And if that is not done by December 3, 2012, the date the new Town Council assumes command, and if I am elected, that is what I will do.

Howell Conant

Candidate for First Warden

To: the Editor—

I had the good fortune to have a featured property on the House and Garden Tour this year. What fun! It was like being part of a secret organization for a day.

Pam Littlefield Gasner somehow had the wand, yet I never witnessed her waving it. Elves magically appeared by the Corn Neck roadside, one with a bandana across his brow. Sweet little street-side signs shaped like houses appeared — we were certainly embarking upon the yellow brick road.

Then more magic: Lemonade and interesting people appeared in my yard! “Who has time this month to volunteer?” I secretly said to myself. I wanted to pay them — and then realized they wanted to be there. Maybe they enjoyed the camaraderie as much as I did.

Then, as if on cue in some indie film, more wonderful characters, well behaved and cordial, appeared with relaxed smiles and a keen interest in touring through the property. Who knew? It was like a lovely garden party that I didn’t have to plan!

In summary, what a great day! Hats and scarves off to all that made this 2012 House and Garden Tour happen. The tour wrapped up with a great opportunity to relax at the 100-year-old Narragansett Inn. A perfect summer lunch was offered as well as a chance to enjoy the view — such a nice bonus.

My only loss was not to see the other homes. Next year, I will make sure to take the tour and snoop around the other special spots that will be offered with open doors. I encourage any homeowner to share their home. It was so friendly and easy, full of great folks to chat with, and a chance to open the doors to curious island eyes that give compliments freely... a chance to blush, and in addition, get a free tune up for the ol’ ego. Thank you all for a wonderful day!

Jill H. Helterline

Corn Neck Road

To: the Editor—

My large and extended family has made Block Island our vacation home for a week or two every summer for 40 years. I have been fortunate enough to be able to run for miles on your beautiful roads. I just want to pass along two messages:

To the driver of the white van who ran me and my dog off the road and into a gravel driveway last week on West Side Road, I want you to know that I am healing. One knee is still swollen, and the other has a cut that is having difficulty closing (at 62, we tend not to mend as quickly), but I’m getting there. I can’t imagine why, at 9 a.m., you were in such a hurry. You weren’t even headed into town to catch a ferry or get an emergency cup of coffee.You saw another large vehicle approaching from the other direction. Why couldn’t you have waited just a few seconds before trying to pass us?

The other message: A huge thank you to the gentleman in the passing vehicle, who stopped to ask if he could help me. And another thank you to the countless drivers I passed during the last two weeks who generously gave me a wide berth to run. I thank all of you for your courtesy.

Susan McKeon

Branford, CT

To: the Editor—

We recently rented a house on the island (August 5 to 12) and had a great week on the island with family and friends. We were quite sad to leave on Sunday, which was another gorgeous day on the island.

While we sat in the standby line for the ferry, we had time to kill and decided to grab a quick appetizer at the Mohegan Café and Brewery. We had a small order at the bar (delicious calamari and chicken wings!) but the female bartender (we didn’t get her name) was so friendly and hard-working. She was extremely busy and handled it with ease. A few hours later, when we finally got off the ferry in Pt. Judith, we realized at the gas station that we had left our credit card in the bill at the Mohegan.

We were now on our way home to Connecticut and were quite concerned about the card. I immediately called the Mohegan and the gentleman (again, unfortunately, I did not get his name) that answered was extremely kind, accommodating and helpful. He explained that they had the card, asked for our address and said they would put it in the mail.

Anyone who has misplaced a credit card knows how nerve-racking an experience this is. We were unsure if it would really get mailed from the island to us in southern Connecticut. However, we gave it a chance before going through the hassle of canceling it and reordering a new one. Mohegan Café and Brewery, true to its word, sent the card with a short and sweet note from Colby (the manager) and staff, and we received it just a week later.

It is so reassuring to know that there are honest businesses like this. The Mohegan went above and beyond its obligations to us and we are quite grateful for that. We return to the island almost every summer and this is just another reason to add to the list of why we do.

Thank you to Colby and all of the staff at the Mohegan for your kindness and good will. We will see you next summer!

Brianna Kastukevich, L.J. Spinnato

Wallingford, CT

To: the Editor—

A HUGE thanks to all of you for making the Block Island Early Learning Center 9th Annual Great Toy Boat Race a giant success. We raised over $11K for our preschool and toddler programs!

Thanks to everyone who bought tickets and came to cheer with the crowd. Thanks to Interstate Navigation for sponsoring the event, Carol Payne for letting us use her property, John Leone for the use of his kayaks, and the Sports Shop for a prize. A special thanks all the people who helped organize and run the event, especially the dedicated parents, board members and staff of our school for thier continual hard work and love for our school and its children. It is a real pleasure working with all of you and our island community.

Sue Brown Black

Director, BIELC

To: the Editor—

I would like to thank the New Shoreham Recreation Department, Rob Closter, and his troop of volunteers for this year’s Block Island Triathlon.

I, along with my wife Lauren and brother Mike, truly had a wonderful time participating in this event. Without the volunteers, there would be no race, so thank you all.

I must apologize to all the children whose sand castles were ruined because I did not have the strength to go around them during the four mile beach run. I simply had to go through them. Maybe next year I will be better prepared!

Rich Payne

Corn Neck Road

To: the Editor—

Thanks to the help and support of the business community and many residents, both summer and year round, the Party for the Parks hosted by the National Hotel was a big success. On behalf of the Old Harbor Task Force, I want to thank everyone for their support. The money raised will go a long way towards funding seaside plantings (along the driveway into the Interstate freight lot and behind the new dock at Old Harbor) and providing “seed” money for the concept design for Pole Harbor Park next to the Surf Hotel.

Between the delicious food and drink and the great silent auction items, everyone had a delightful time eating, drinking, bidding and socializing. What more could one ask for! I want to thank Chris Sereno and Julie Fuller and the wonderful staff of the National Hotel for sponsoring this event.

I would like to thank the following businesses, organizations and individuals who generously contributed to our very successful silent auction: the Glass Onion, Finn’s Restaurant, Jessie Edwards Studio, The Manisses, The Oar, M&C Gas Station, The Ice Cream Place, Aldo’s Restaurant and Bike Rentals, The Nature Conservancy, BITees, Rebecca’s, Karen Duale, Surf Hotel, Eli’s Restaurant, Blazing Star Farm, Golddiggers, Ballard’s Restaurant, East of the River Nile, Chapel Sweets, Diamond Blue Surf Shop, Ink It, Koru Eco Spa, The Atlantic Inn, Island Bound, Wildflowers Boutique, The Beachead Restaurant, Old Post Office Bagel Shop, Sharkey’s Restaurant, Interstate Navigation, Harry’s Restaurant, Chamber of Commerce, Suzy’s Sea Glass, Dead Eye Dick’s Restaurant, New Harbor Kayaks, Poor People’s Pub, Old Harbor Bike Shop, Full Moon Tide, Winfield’s Restaurant, Peter Gibbons, BI Trading Company, Block Island Times, Building Blocks Toy Store, Block Island Accommodations, Watercolors, Mohegan Café, Block Island Sports Shop, Jennifer’s Jewelry, Ambergris, Wave, The Scarlet Begonia and the Comings Family. We could not have done it without all of you helping us!

I also want to thank my hard working committee who are fantastic to work with: Kathy Szabo, Fraser Lang, Becky Ballard, Debbie Howarth, Karen Duale, Cariona Corcoran, Pat Doyle, Jessie Edwards, Doug Gilpin, Arlene Tunney and Julie Fuller.

The Old Harbor Task Force will be working on a concept design for Pole Harbor Park this fall and winter. Join us or share your ideas with one of the committee members. Then, look for the promised plantings this fall and/or next spring. And, to answer the BIG question everyone asked: Yes, Turtle’s Lobster Pot Christmas Tree will be back! Watch for it!

Margie Comings, Chair

Old Harbor Task Force

To: the Editor—

The Block Island Lions Club wishes to thank all those who supported our recent benefit for our fellow Lion and good friend Tom Wilkinson. The “Billy Stubbs Night” held at Smuggler’s on Tuesday was a rousing success, and the special generosity of the island people was ever apparent.

A special thanks goes out to Marc Scortino for providing the entertainment, Rita Draper, Kimberly Ward and the Beachead, Rob Closter, Kathy Szabo and the crew at the Chamber, the Yellow Kittens, Pat Vicaitas, Mary Lawless and,of course, master MC Callum Crawford for handling the “live auction” featuring Eion and Josh.

The winners of the 50/50 raffle, Dr. Peter and Cindy Baute, graciously returned $1,000 to the benefit. Lastly, thanks to Lion Steve McQueeny for coming up with such a good idea. Don’t forget the Lion’s Annual Clambake this Saturday, September 1.

Lion Ray Torrey

For the Block Island Lions Club