A date has not yet been set, but Division of Public Utilities and Carriers officials believe it will take place the second week of November.
On Tuesday, the Division’s hearing room in Warwick was packed. Dozens filtered in to hear testimony and offer public comments as to why or why not the new company should be granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN). On Sept. 19, A&R Marine — doing business as Prudence & Bay Islands Transport — filed an application for a CPCN, which would permit the company to run a ferry from Prudence Island to Bristol.
About 10 residents from Prudence Island offered their opinions, many of whom supported keeping the current ferry service Prudence Island Ferry Inc., owned and operated by Bruce Medley. Mr. Medley has been the sole operator of this lifeline service since the mid-80s.
“The current service we have is more than adequate and reliable,” touted Judy Stavin, former Portsmouth Town Councilman. “I don’t know why you’d even consider another.”
“The service is nice and timely,” added Albert Bielitz, a Prudence Island resident. “If you approve this application, you’ll create a situation where we have two ferries, and that guarantees the demise of both of them. The population of Prudence Island can’t support the operation of two ferries.”
Ron Ginesse, however, told John Spirito, Chief of the Division’s legal services and who oversaw the hearing, that he had been evicted from the ferry seven years go for what he believes was because of Mr. Medley’s “personal fiefdom.”
“I was being charged for carrying on a bag, and the price would change for this same bag as the years went by,” he told Mr. Spirito. “So, I said something and the police were called, and I was told I was disrupting the normal operations of the ferry and not to step foot on the ferry again, or the police would arrest me.”
In his opening statement, Mike McElroy – legal counsel for A&R Marine – attempted to discredit Mr. Medley’s ability to provide ferry service, by highlighting Mr. Medley’s record of “flatly ignoring” previous Division decrees.
“After the Division hears the fitness of A&R Marine, we ask that you revoke the certificate of (Mr. Medley), effective June 14, 2014, so as to allow a smooth transition,” Mr. McElroy said.
Mr. McElroy adjusted A&R Marine’s application to reflect a start date of June 15, 2014 – the day after the lease between the Town of Bristol and Prudence Island Ferry Inc., expires. The lease allows Mr. Medley to utilize the Thames Street dock as the ferry’s home port.
However, the hearing would not consider revoking Mr. Medley’s certificate, as that was not on the docket for discussion. That topic could be discussed at a later date, should any testimony raise concern over his ferry operation, Mr. Spirito said.
Andy Teitz, legal counsel for the Town of Bristol, added that the town would entertain a lease concurrent with Mr. Medley’s lease, if that were necessary. The town would also lease to A&R Marine on Dec. 2, 2013, their initial certificate effective date.
Gary Crosby, Portsmouth Town Planner, was called to the stand to testify about his involvement in soliciting bids for a new ferry service. Confusion and consternation set in when Mr. Medley announced he would cease ferry service earlier this year, only to retract that statement about two months later.
“We are pleased in this process, that it is moving forward,” said Mr. Crosby, answering a line of questioning from Mr. McElroy. “We have a high level of confidence in Mr. Antaya (of A&R Marine), that we can move forward in our goal of finding a longterm solution for ferry service.”
However, when it came to knowing whether or not A&R Marine had a ferry boat, and its specifics, Mr. Crosby stood clueless.
“So you have a high level of assurance with A&R Marine, but all those items important to a ferry service, you don’t know the answer to any of them,” said Timothy Dodd, legal counsel for Mr. Medley.
Mr. McElroy called upon a few more witnesses to A&R Marine’s capabilities, namely those involved with the corporation: Ethan Rossi, Stephen Antaya and his son, Daniel.
Mr. Medley did not take the stand, but will have a chance to rebut comments made about his ferry service during the next hearing.