Utility Board takes steps to secure financing

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 9:15am

Members of the Block Island Utility District Board of Commissioners held an early Sunday morning meeting to finalize bylaws for the organization, including incorporating comments and corrections from its legal counsel, all of which will allow the Utility District to join such organizations as the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation. Membership is a necessary step before financing can be obtained for the Utility District to acquire the Block Island Power Company. The Town of New Shoreham currently owns a two-thirds share of BIPCo, which it purchased for $1.8 million. The remaining share is owned by Sara McGinnes.

The bylaws themselves are very much a reflection of the enabling legislation that created the Utility District, with some sections simply referring to the law as opposed to being specifically spelled out, such as the “powers of the utility district.” 

Other areas in the by-laws considered by the Utility District Board required more honing, especially the timing of elections for commissioners, and how that relates to the holding of an annual meeting for ratepayers.

Built into the timeline is a provision for declaring a “qualified elector” for electric accounts that are not in the name of a specific person, but rather bear the name of a corporation or trust. Ratepayers were asked to designate qualified electors before the initial election for commissioners, which was held last fall. Going forward, only new accounts will need to name an elector, but existing ones will be able to change electors if they wish.

The Commissioners established that a minimum of 15 ratepayers will constitute a quorum for the annual meeting, which will be held in August of each year. While Board member Barbara MacMullan said the District’s legal counsel thought the number low, commissioners wondered if they could even get that number of people at their annual meeting, so the bylaws were tweaked with a provision for rescheduling the annual meeting if there is no quorum.

In an earlier version of the bylaws, ratepayers were to vote on any changes to the bylaws. Now, the commissioners may make changes as they wish, after holding a public hearing on those proposed changes. 

The bylaws are based on models from four other, similar utility districts, in addition to the enabling legislation.