Editorial: Two plans, two opportunities to help

Sun, 09/22/2013 - 2:00pm

There are two initiatives underway designed to improve the town’s infrastructure and the quality of life here and each in its own way is an important step toward institutionalizing some of the challenges we face.

The Block Island Chamber of Commerce recently issued a survey asking business owners to prioritize what they see are the top areas of concern impacting the island’s economic environment. None of the top three is a surprise — electric rates, inadequate internet service and lack of tourist services — but the mere act of prioritizing the issues creates a kind of plan of attack. While others may feel that other issues are more important, such as freight rates, inadequate parking, water or sewer rates, it’s now apparent that these three issues are what need to be addressed first, according to the majority of the business people who responded to the survey.

But the response to the surveys and the request to have people serve on the committees designed to address the issues underscored a sense of apathy. Fewer than 50 people out of 200 took the time to return the survey. And when volunteers were asked to sit on the committees designed to fix the problem, the first response was silence. A little cajoling elicited some response, still tepid. But it’s a start.

Second, the Town Council has created an Infrastructure Committee that will analyze the integrity of town buildings, both inside and out. This initiative, by Councilor Chris Warfel, is a welcome and practical measure. He pointed out correctly that often the people who manage the facilities often do not have the more technical expertise needed to identify and address such issues as electrical, plumbing or even structural issues.

This committee, too, needs volunteers.

It’s true that to live on Block Island, if you’re not retired, almost everyone has to have a second, if not a third, job and so the idea of volunteering for a committee is one of the least attractive options imaginable when it comes to spending what little downtime one may have.

But what is happening is important work. The infrastructure committee can help the town better spend its tax dollars (your money) by being proactive on maintenance issues, and the Chamber initiative to improve the business climate can also reap long-term benefits for visitors and residents alike.

Volunteer for one of these initiatives if you can.