Town Council meeting preview

Town exploring wind farm dockage hub

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 4:45pm

A dockage hub at Old Harbor for supporting the offshore wind industry and Interstate Navigation’s construction of a new 500 passenger high-speed ferry at a cost of $8,500,000 are two of the 13 items on the Town Council’s agenda for its Dec. 19 meeting at 7 p.m. There will also be an update on the $1.5 million Thomas Property-based Town Employee Housing Initiative in open session, although the item will primarily be discussed in closed session.

Old Harbor offshore wind farm hub

The Town of New Shoreham is exploring dockage options at Old Harbor for potentially accommodating vessels supporting the Block Island Wind Farm and the local offshore wind industry. The topic will be held in open session, and is noted as an action item.

The agenda item states: “Discuss and act on authorizing the Town Manager to discuss Old Harbor Dockage options.”

Town Manager Ed Roberge told The Block Island Times the town is open to learning about potentially operating a dockage hub at Old Harbor, in whatever capacity that might entail, for supporting the offshore wind industry.

Charlie Donadio, Jr., the owner of Atlantic Wind Transfers, the company that operates the crew transfer vessel for the Block Island Wind Farm, broached the subject at the Town Council’s Sept. 19 meeting when he said the offshore wind industry could be an “economic benefit” to Block Island, leading to the creation of a number of jobs. Donadio, who is also the owner of Rhode Island Fast Ferry, has been engaged in litigation with the town for the past few years over proposed dockage plans at Old Harbor for operating a seasonal high-speed ferry service from Quonset Point to Block Island. The town has stated its opposition to the service.

Roberge said the town will remain unbiased with its consideration of Donadio and Atlantic Wind Transfers, despite its involvement in litigation with Rhode Island Fast Ferry. “(Charlie) called as a follow up to his presentation at the Town Council’s meeting in September,” said Roberge. “And the Town Council wants to understand what the needs are. We want to make sure we don’t miss any of the details.”

Roberge stressed that the discussion will involve looking at all aspects of operating an offshore wind dockage hub, and what that could mean for the town.

Town Solicitor Katherine Merolla, the chief litigator involved with the Rhode Island Fast Ferry case, is reviewing the matter from a legal perspective.

Interstate Fast Ferry application

Roberge said a late addition to the Council’s agenda is the item concerning “Interstate Navigation’s interest in building a fast ferry.” The item is noted on the agenda as receiving and acting “on the notice from Interstate Fast Ferry regarding application to the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers for authorization pursuant to Rhode Island General Law 39-3-15 to incur $8,500,000 in debt for the purpose of constructing a new 500 passenger fast ferry.”

Town Employee Housing

Roberge said the Town Council would be providing an update on the Town Employee Housing Initiative at the meeting, before discussing the subject in closed session. He told The Times that bids are expected back from potential contractors on Dec. 18. “The bids went out after Thanksgiving,” he said.

This is the second round of requests for proposals that were sent out by the town on the $1.5 million project, which only netted one respondent during the first round of bids in September. The lone bid the town received was $800,000 over budget, and did not meet the required timeframe for the build.

The Town Employee Housing project calls for constructing a prefab or modular home for a senior town employee and creating four rental units within the footprint of the Thomas Property’s duplex. Roberge needs housing, potentially on the Thomas Property, before the end of May when his apartment’s lease agreement expires.

“I’m hoping we get one or two bids, if not three or four,” from this round of bids, said Roberge. “The interest is out there. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

Old Island Pub liquor license

The Town Council will vote on granting a new liquor license to the Gaffett family for the newly constructed Old Island Pub restaurant on Ocean Avenue. Roberge said the Gaffett family “sought relief” regarding their liquor license since construction on the building has been delayed.

Town Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick told The Times that the Gaffetts “were not ready with their Certificate of Occupancy by November 30. At the last Town Council meeting they applied for, and were granted, relief in order to apply for a new license out of time.”

Other items listed on the agenda include: setting a public hearing date for an application from Chris Warfel to amend the town’s zoning ordinance for section 517 related to performance standards and section 425 for special use permits regarding solar energy systems; act as the Board of License Commissioners for transferring a Class BV liquor license for Ballard’s Inn from stockholder Marion Filippi to stockholder Steve Filippi; act on 2019 commercial shellfish licenses and hawkers and peddler’s applications; review correspondence from the Harbors Committee regarding a “Community Boating Center and New Harbor Welcome Center”; discuss a request for resolution to get RIAC funding for the airport; and vote to make annual appointments to various boards, committees and commissions.