Utility District legislation passes

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 8:30am

The legislation enabling the formation of the Block Island Utility District has passed both chambers of the Rhode Island Legislature. On Friday June 22, the R.I. Senate passed the legislation with a 35 – 0 vote, thereby sending the bill to the House where it passed out of the Corporations Committee on Tuesday, June 27. The bill was subsequently voted on by the House later that evening, passing 67 – 2. Voting against the bill were Rep. John Edwards (District 70 – Portsmouth and Tiverton) and Michael Morin (District 49 – Woonsocket). 

Senator Sue Sosnowski sponsored the bill in the Senate, and Rep. Blake Filippi was the House sponsor. Introduced on April 12, the legislation was considered by the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Corporations Committee. 

The bill allows the formation of a non-profit, ratepayer controlled utility district to replace the current, for-profit Block Island Power Company.

In order for a bill to be sent to the Governor, the Senate bill that was approved must then be approved by the House, and vice versa. Both those steps were completed by Thursday morning.

“It’s very exciting to get to this milestone and we look forwad to transitioning to the Block Island Utility District,” said BIPCo President Jeffery Wright on Thursday.

If Gov. Gina Raimondo does not sign the bill within 10 days, it goes into effect automatically.  “We had attendance at all the hearings, but special kudos to Sen. Sosnowski for guiding us through the negotiations in the Senate, and to Norris Pike and Shirlyne Gobern, who were there for every committee meeting,” said BIPCo Transition Team member Nancy Dodge.

Passage of the legislation sets the wheels in motion for the next step in the transition. The Block Island Power Company Transition Team, whose members also constitute the current board of Directors of BIPCo, have been preparing a time-table to hold an election for a board of directors for the new entity. 

The election is being administered by the town, under the direction of Town Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick. The new board will consist of five members, three of whom must be residents of Block Island. 

The Transition Team will hold a public information meeting at Town Hall on July 15 “to talk about what the new board will have on its plate going forward,” said Dodge.

For those who are interested in running for the board, declaration papers will be sent out with June’s electric bills. The papers must be signed, notarized, and returned to Fitzpatrick by July 17. Candidates are asked to provide an up-to 250 word statement as to their background and reason for running. These statements will then appear on the ballot, which will be mailed to all eligible voters on, or around July 31.

Ballots are to be either mailed or returned to Town Hall by August 28. The Transition Team hopes to hold some “get to know the candidates” events during the election process.