Block Island Utility District board members Barbara MacMullan and Everett Shorey seemed pleased by the one-third voter response to the Utility District’s election. A total of 471 voters out of 1,500 account holders who were mailed ballots cast their votes.
When the Utility District was initially conceived, the architects, including some of the current board members and the late Norris Pike, said the aim was to have the district’s policies governed with input from its account holders, or those who paid an electric bill on Block Island.
It appears with the results from the election that the Utility District is trending toward public accountability and involvement, with a partnership being formed between board members and the account holders. This could be construed as a galvanizing moment for the Utility District’s future, where common goals are considered, and weighed, with the voices of its account holders being determinants.
The voter-approved “peak shaving” referendum is an example of the Utility District’s board members seeking input regarding a policy from its own ratepayers, something that was absent with its predecessor, the privately owned Block Island Power Company.
It’s interesting to note that almost three years to the day, Sept. 26, 2016, the town’s registered voters assembled in the Block Island School’s gymnasium to vote 178-176 to approve the Town of New Shoreham’s two-thirds purchase of the power company’s stock in pursuit of forming the Utility District.
At the time, resident David Lewis, who voted in favor of the purchase, said it was a “watershed moment” for the island. “This isn’t about me, or us,” he said. “It’s about the next generation.”
Utility District President Jeffery Wright summed it up by saying the election wasn’t about the results, but that voter participation is “a reason to celebrate the Utility District’s democracy.”