Utility Commissioners elected
The Town of New Shoreham has elected a five-member Board of Utility Commissioners who will govern and set policy for a soon-to-be-formed Block Island Utility District.
The elected Commissioners, in order of the vote count, are: Barbara MacMullan (476), William Penn (380), Everett Shorey (370), Jack Savoie (361), and Mary Jane Balser (341). The other candidates who ran were: Sean McGarry (288), Christine Grele (281), and Pete McNerney (272).
Town Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick, who announced the results at Town Hall at about 5 p.m. on Tuesday, said a total of 1,643 ballots were mailed out to Block Island Power Company account holders with 684 votes being cast.
“We had a phenomenal group of volunteers who worked quickly and carefully to count the votes, including Heather Russo and Marguerite Donnelly from the Board of Canvassers,” said Fitzpatrick. “Town Sergeant Tom Durden was also present to watch over the proceedings. We used the same process developed by the Board of Elections to count votes for write-in candidates — teams of five: a reader, a watcher, and three counters. The work requires painstaking concentration. I’m glad we had so many people step forward to help because with four teams we were able to (begin at 3:30 p.m. and) finish before 5 p.m. It takes a village.”
First Warden Ken Lacoste said, “The election went very well. I credit the Town Clerk’s office with contributing to that success. I believe that everyone elected is well qualified to hit the ground running and begin to tackle the formidable tasks ahead of them with the formulation of the new utility district. I congratulate those who were elected, and thank everyone who ran and was willing to put their name into consideration.”
Block Island Power Company President Jeffery Wright thanked the volunteers after the results were announced. Wright told The Times that there is “some continuity with the newly-elected board,” as four members, MacMullan, Penn, Savoie, and Shorey, served on the BIPCo Board and Transition Team. Wright noted that the next step is to form the Block Island Utility District.
The Utility Board “election was historic for Block Island and is being celebrated by our public power colleagues,” said Wright. “Now that the new Board of Commissioners is in place they will form by-laws for the Utility District, negotiate a settlement with the two owners of BIPCo, the town and Sara McGinnes, and arrange for financing to enable that transaction.” (The town purchased two-thirds shares of BIPCo for $1.8 million authorized by a vote of 178 to 176 at a Financial Town Meeting on Sept. 26, 2016.) “I know the new Commissioners are all ready to begin work on this immediately.”
Wright noted that he was “super excited to have Mary Jane Balser aboard. She is one of the power company’s largest customers, so she should have a seat at the table. I’m glad she ran.”
Balser told The Times that she was “excited to be working with this group — a lot of things need to be addressed. One of my concerns is that everything is running perfectly, and at one hundred percent, at the cheapest possible cost to the consumer. I’ve served on many boards, mostly in a finance capacity, and I’ve had one philosophy: you’re spending someone else’s money.”
Bill Penn said, “I am honored to be elected to the Board of Commissioners. The creation of the Utility District is a milestone in the history of our community in that we ratepayers will now have direct control over the policies and procedures affecting the operations of the District. There is a lot of work that needs to be accomplished to activate the Utility District and I am committed to participate in this process.” Penn noted that he “resigned from the BIPCo Board of Directors” the day after the election.
Shorey said he was “pleased to be able to continue serving Block Island on electric utility issues. The Block Island Power Company has done a great job in the last year as it connected to the cable, recovered from the fire, and is in the process of removing and replacing the oil tanks. Our challenge as the Utility District is to complete the purchase of BIPCo and continue making progress as a customer-focused, community-oriented company.”
MacMullan said, “I am honored to have been elected to the Block Island Utility District Board of Commissioners, and I am gratified that the other members of the BIPCo board of directors were elected as well. The election is a vote of confidence in the work we have done so far to transition BIPCo to a ratepayer controlled, nonprofit utility and I am looking forward to working with the new board and the community to achieve these goals.”
Jack Savoie did not provide The Block Island Times with a comment by press time.