Editorial: One last chance for public comment on Interstate proposal

Sun, 03/17/2013 - 2:40pm

There is one last chance for public input on the draft agreement reached between Interstate Navigation and a Division of the PUC that was announced earlier this month and it’s a valuable — if belated — opportunity for the public to offer its input.

“The settlement basically brings us to where we wanted to be, by and large,” said Richard LaCapra — who is negotiating with Interstate on behalf of the town — after the draft agreement was announced.

Maybe so, but there are some details that we feel should receive an airing at the hearing.

Under the proposed agreement, vehicle rates will decrease yet freight rates will increase significantly by 34 percent. It seems to us that there is an opportunity for Interstate to reach its desired revenue goals by keeping vehicle rates the same as they are now during peak usage, therefore allowing a rethinking of the freight rate increase. Will tourists no longer consider Block Island as a destination during the summer if the ferry rates are a few dollars more? No. People will keep coming. But the freight rates will impact islanders all year long.

Is there not a way to balance this out? This seems to us an issue worth reconsidering before the matter goes to a final vote by the PUC.

The PUC is holding a meeting at Town Hall beginning at 12:15 on April 4.

We urge anyone with an interest in the matter to attend the April 4 meeting if they can (it’s on a Thursday during the day — not the most convenient time for working people). But taking an advantage of this opportunity could result in a final agreement that may work out well for all parties involved.

A link to the settlement can be found at www.new-shoreham.com. Click on the link that says “Draft Interstate Settlement Agreement.”