Block Island experiencing a Covid breakout
The past couple of weeks have seen a dramatic rise in positive Covid cases. The R.I. Department of Health had the island’s cumulative case count since the start of the
pandemic up by four cases in the week of May 8, but anecdotally, the number who have tested positive is far, far higher with at least a dozen cases in the past two weeks. The Department of Health only counts those who were tested at a state testing site, so the totals do not reflect those who test positive at the Block Island Medical Center, at the
Block Island School, or at home.
Alison Warfel, Director of Wellness and Risk Reduction at the Block Island Medical Center tells The Times that Covid boosters are available at pharmacies on the mainland including CVS, McQuade's, Green Line, and Seaside.
CVS, McQuade's and Seaside will fly over home test kits, which are also available in limited supply at the Block Island Grocery.
Block Island School
The Block Island School is winding down the year and already making plans for next fall. The School Committee approved the appointment of Roberta Closter to replace retiring high school science teacher Dr. Sue Gibbons.
Physical Education teacher John Tarbox has delayed his retirement for a few months. He now plans to retire at the end of the school year in June 2023, instead of in January 2023.
The annual Spring Concert will be held on June 9, and graduation will be June 12. The last day of school is scheduled for June 21.
Water and Sewer Departments
The Sewer Department isn’t sure when the work to reline the sewer pipes near Bridgegate Square will resume. The work that was scheduled for May 9, 10, and 11 had to be canceled when Mother Nature decided to kick up a multi-day ocean storm that prevented all the ferries from running.
Supt. Dylan Chase hopes the work will be done in the fall.
The Sewer and Water Departments approved their budgets for the upcoming fiscal year that starts on July 1 at a meeting on May 16, with all but Chase and two members of the Commissions attending remotely due to Covid. Both budgets have an increase in both revenues and expenditures of 10.4 percent over this fiscal year.
Both water and sewer will be working with a new rate structure that is partially based on similar changes made by the Block Island Power Company two years ago. Instead of two rates per year, there will now be four. The lowest rate will be in effect from November through April, and the highest rates will be in July and August. May, June, September, and October will have rates in between, with May and October being much less than June and September.
The Water and Sewer Departments will hold their Annual Financial Meeting for voters to approve the budget on June 20.
Members of the Land Trust were on the defensive last Thursday, May 12 due to some in the community that are seeking to divert their real estate transfer fees for affordable and attainable housing. They want the community to know they are in support of year-round housing and can help facilitate it financially by doing things like purchasing conservation easements on portions of lands designated for affordable housing, but their enabling legislation, passed by the State of Rhode Island does not allow them to spend the fees on non-conservation items.
In other news, the Land Trust met with Police Chief Matt Moynihan to discuss “security” plans for the summer, particularly at the beach just south of Ballard’s Resort and the Ocean View Pavilion. The Land Trust has volunteered to fund one of the Community Service Officer positions through the Police Department and will hire a security guard to patrol the pavilion on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The Tourism Council put off funding the Block Island Visitors’ Center until its June meeting. Last year the Visitors’ Center was spun off from the Block Island Chamber of Commerce as its own not-for-profit entity. Since it performs work valuable to the town, the Tourism Council and the Chamber, the three usually share costs. The town’s share normally comes in the form of waived rent for the facility.
This year, Chamber Director Lars Trodson was asking for $15,000 from the Tourism Council. But, as Trodson is leaving his position for employment elsewhere, he was asked “what the plan” was for the summer as far as staffing and such. Employees to serve as “tourism ambassadors” are still being sought, and Trodson said he would come back in June with a plan.
The Council did fund requests from Soundwaves (movies at the beach) and the Summer Symphony, a fundraising event put on by the Chamber, at the same levels as last
year. At their next meeting in June, they will take up funding requests for the Highways Department to add some overtime hours for early morning beach clean-up and the “dispatcher’s project” at the police station to improve the working conditions there.