Two candidates running for Utility Board seats

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 4:45pm
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The following was submitted by Utility Board Clerk Christine Grele:

The Annual Meeting of the Block Island Utility District will be held on Saturday, Aug. 24, at 4 p.m. at Town Hall. Come hear from the Board of Commissioners, learn about peak shaving, and meet the candidates for two Board of Commissioners seats. Election ballots will be mailed on Thursday, Aug. 29, and they will include a membership question about peak shaving to inform the Board on their upcoming decision. Ballots will be due back Monday, Sept. 30 and results will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 1. 

There are two seats open. Mary Jane Balser is an incumbent and Elliot Taubman is running for Jack Savoie's seat. Elections for the three remaining seats (Barbara MacMullan, Everett Shorey, and Bill Penn) will be in 2021.

Even though it is an uncontested race at this point, we are hoping for community involvement, especially as the board would like to get public input on a peak shaving question. (Peak shaving is the process of reducing the amount of energy purchased from the regional electric grid during peak demand hours.)

In order to vote, members of the Utility District have been asked to update their contact and account information and they must designate a qualified elector by August 15, if needed. A qualified elector's name appears on an active account. No account will have more than one qualified elector, and they can only vote once. Entities, such as legal businesses, must designate an officer or representative to serve as their qualified elector, and that person can only vote once.

Here are the statements from the candidates:

Mary Jane Balser

My name is Mary Jane Balser and I have lived on Block Island for the last 33 years. I am a current member of the B.I. Utility Board and am running for re-election and would like your vote.

I have been a partner and owner of the B.I. Grocery and Seaside Market for the last 33 years. This business is one of the largest electric users on the island, and I am very interested in electric rates being the lowest possible for all users.

My background includes serving on the Town Council for two years, as well as being Finance Director for the Town for 12 years. I have designed, built and sold four low-moderate homes on Pilot Hill and 20 low moderate homes on West Side Road as a volunteer. Both projects were completed on budget. I served as Chairman of the Republican Town Committee for 10 years and am a recipient of the Joan Abrams award for my community involvement and business acumen.

I was the Director and Incorporator of the Fairfield County Bankcorp in Connecticut for 27 years and am a retired President of the YMCA of the USA.

I have served on many community boards including, but not limited to, the United Way, Red Cross, Girl Scouts, Democratic Town Committee, and church parish councils where I previously resided in Connecticut.

I would very much like to continue my service on the Utility Board and am hopeful to remain in that position with your positive vote on my behalf.

Thank you.

Elliot Taubman

I have spent much of my life doing utility representation, mostly for low income groups and environmental matters. On Block Island, I represented the town in litigation against Block Island Power Co. and Interstate Navigation. As to Interstate, I got a Commuter Fare for Block Island residents and rolled back proposed freight rate increases. As to BIPCo, I succeeded in having the Public Utilities Commission disregard buying fuel by Island Services (owned by the former owner of BIPCo) at the PUC and the R.I. Supreme Court. I was counsel to BIPCo from 1986-2017. I worked with FM and cell carriers and the town to build a telecommunications tower. This gave as much $200,000 per year to offset potential rate increases; I continued to handle the leases on the tower as counsel.

My background includes being in Legal Services in Connecticut doing work on all kinds of utilities, including electricity. At the National Consumer Law Center, I established a national backup presence for public side lawyers, which included publications, training of professionals and expert testimony. I then worked for the New Mexico Attorney General on utility regulation including municipal utilities. I was recruited to go to New York as assistant attorney general in charge of energy and utilities. I left New York to move to Block Island. Besides representing the town on utility matters, I was legal counsel for 22 years to the Sewer District, and for the Water District from its inception.

I believe my background and experience would add to the expertise of the Utility District.