Prudence Island resident, Edward Bishop, played host on Monday, to approximately 25 residents and merchants from Bristol, Prudence Island and Hog Island at Rogers Free Library where they discussed viable options that would continue the ferry service between Bristol and Prudence Island should the current owner cease operations.
After reading social media posts and hearing rumors that Bruce Medley, owner of the Prudence Island ferry, is considering retiring or moving his ferry from Bristol, residents of Prudence Island are concerned. Several years ago, they said, Mr. Medley abruptly stopped service to Hog Island and it wouldn’t surprise them if he did the same thing to them.
“Bruce said he was going to pull the plug on ferry service to Prudence Island,” said Representative Raymond Gallison who represents the towns of Bristol and Portsmouth.
Rep. Gallison said upon hearing that, he asked himself ‘How do I protect the people on Prudence Island?’ And ‘How do I protect the Bristol merchants?’
He submitted legislation, H-5600, a bill that “creates an authority allowing the authority to have total jurisdiction over ferry service,” removing it from Public Utilities Commission oversight. A companion bill, S-232 was introduced by Senator Christopher Ottiano.
While some voiced concern that an authority could create an entity similar to the embattled Bristol County Water Authority, Bristol town council vice chairman Halsey Herreshoff looked for another option, including the town’s purchase of the property.
“Buying it is more defensive than anything else,” Mr. Herreshoff said of the town’s intent to acquire the dock. “Don’t worry about that. We don’t want anything else there. To me a better solution is for another good business to come along. We would probably be counterproductive to introduce government control.”
Mr. Herreshoff compared Mr. Gallison’s proposal to the creation of an entity such as the BCWA and the East Bay Energy Consortium.
“We run the town, but we shouldn’t run windmills or ferries,” he said.
Bristol town administrator Tony Teixeira said that the town is in discussion with Mr. Medley over the purchase of the dock, although he declined to comment on the substance of those discussions because they are held in executive session.
While Prudence Island resident, Albert Bielitz, challenged Mr. Gallison’s bill as “black letter law,” a term used to define boilerplate language, one of his neighbors, Shawn Williams, said that the current ferry service was “pretty horrible for passengers now,” and the bill was only an option.
“It’s better than nothing,” Ms. Williams said.
Mr. Gallison explained that the bill he submitted did, in fact, use language that was not tailored to this situation, but was used as a placeholder until residents could decide what they wanted.
Mr. Bishop said that no matter the outcome, Prudence Island residents need water transportation.
“There’s not a lot you can do on the island,” he said, adding that residents use the ferry to transport everything from visitors to medication to pizzas across the harbor.
“The people from Prudence Island feel this is the place. The interest in Bristol is about keeping the ferry in Bristol,” Mr. Bishop said.
To make that happen, Mr. Bishop encouraged all parties to be open to productive dialogue and options.