Letters to the Editor, Nov. 19, 2011

Fri, 11/18/2011 - 4:00pm

To: the Editor—

I was recently investigating energy conservation and funding opportunities for a client in Rhode Island and came across a piece of information of which residents of Block Island should be aware.

While it is public knowledge that the Town of New Shoreham has been participating in an energy study with several other towns in Washington County, what isn’t public knowledge is that the town has required all financial analysis to assume that Deepwater is operational in two years and to use the supposedly lower electricity rates in investment calculations. Only two entities could make this stipulation; the Town Council or the Town Manager (or both).

Apparently the town has been backing the Deepwater project — and it was certainly done without the taxpayer’s knowledge or public discussion. This is a loose string that begins to unwind the behind-the-scenes antics of the town.

Consider the following facts: The town is by far the largest energy consumer on the island. The town has failed to support the establishment of any meaningful energy conservation program on the island and Block Island Power Company has fought against these programs. This has the effect of keeping electricity consumption higher than one would expect, which BIPCo has argued is necessary to help pay for the cable. The town has also failed to implement any energy conservation or renewable energy technology for taxpayer-supported facilities unless it was received as a grant or a gift.

Also, consider this: there have been several energy conservation studies that showed an abundance of opportunities that could have saved the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars by now. However, the town with the highest energy prices in the contiguous United States has not made any meaningful investments to lower its energy costs in the last 10 years. None.

One can conclude that the town has been deliberately deceiving the taxpayer by making it appear to be proactive on energy issues through the establishment of committees ad nauseam, despite the reality otherwise. I am in possession of a letter from the First Warden touting the performance of the town in energy issues in response to my complaint of the Town Council’s and Town Manager’s continuing failure to incorporate common energy efficiency design features and renewable energy technology into our infrastructure. Her letter contains many inaccuracies, and when I attempted to ask her about her letter at a Town Council meeting, she refused to discuss the issue further, citing the need for legal consultation. She won’t even agenda these items for discussion. I would assume that position would only be taken if you know you have been disingenuous at best and would expose the town’s conduct to additional criticism.

In addition to energy efficiency investments, one of the most effective options for lowering electricity prices is to condemn BIPCo, establish its fair price and convert it to a rate-payer cooperative. Cooperatives constitute the greatest number of utilities in the United States. Mysteriously this option has not been pursued even though proposed several times. The Energy Plan that was recently issued, drafted by the Town Planner, contains statements strongly supporting the investigation of building a cable. A polling of committee members indicates they were unaware of this “conclusion.” Who would have directed the Town Planner to do this? My guess is either the Town Manager or the Town Council.

Putting all of this together and reviewing some of the recent contracting issues leads one to the conclusion that the town is covertly working with special interests, and has been doing so for many years. This letter would be much longer if I listed just the issues I know about.

Under Rhode Island law, local officials cannot be subject to a recall election. In lieu of this I ask Town Council members Torrey, Lacoste, Baute and Martin to remove the Town Manager from office since the First Warden isn’t showing the necessary leadership and appears to have lost the concept of representing the taxpayer. I am asking that they resign if they are unwilling to do this and allow an election to take place. The major problem with this is that such a mess has been created that few have the time and endurance to take on the work necessary to fix all the problems.

Chris Warfel

High Street