Ferry will top agenda at Prudence meeting Saturday


PRUDENCE ISLAND —Ferry transportation to and from Prudence Island will be the main item of interest when the Portsmouth Town Council meets islanders at a regular session this Saturday, July 20.

The council will meet at 2 p.m. at the Prudence Island Improvement Association Building, 620 Narragansett Ave. Council President James Seveney said members will be taking the 1:30 p.m. ferry to the island.

It's been four or five years since the council last met on Prudence. Islanders will no doubt have plenty of questions for the council regarding the ferry situation on Saturday.

"I'm sure this will be foremost on the minds of its citizens," said Town Administrator John Klimm.

The Town of Bristol recently purchased the Prudence Island Ferry dock and parking lot on Thames Street in that town for $800,000 from ferry owner Bruce Medley. Although Mr. Medley announced to passengers and town officials earlier this year that he would cease operations as of Dec. 1, on July 9 he said he intends to stay with the ferry business for the foreseeable future despite the dock sale.

The sale of the ferry dock had less to do with preserving ferry access than the fact that "the dock is underused and we really did not need to hold onto it any more," Mr. Medley said. Demand for parking there isn't what it used to be, he said, "and the fact is we just didn't need it anymore." The deal enables the ferry company to lease space there for the coming year with possible renewal thereafter.

Mr. Medley said he and partner Harry Church had considered selling the ferry but that the right opportunity didn't present itself. "We no longer own the dock but we will continue on as we have been otherwise," he said.

The Portsmouth Town Council recently put out a request for information to see who might be interested in providing ferry service, and Mr. Seveney said the town has received several inquiries already. The council also voted to spend $20,000 for engineering work for any technical issues regarding ferry service, including an evaluation of the dock on Prudence Island.

Confusion over parking

Among the terms of the $800,000 purchase price negotiated by the Town of Bristol, that town will own the parking lot with its 65 to 70 spots, although lease agreements for 25 of those spots between Prudence Island residents and Mr. Medley will be honored through the terms of the lease.

Some island residents have expressed confusion over the parking situation, which will require a fee for overnight parking. Mr. Klimm, as well as Harry Sterling from the Prudence Island Planning Commission (PIPC), said they'll be able to update islanders about parking at Saturday's meeting.

People with questions or comments about the ferry issue are urged to send an e-mail to either Mr. Sterling (piplancom@aol.com) or Edward Aldrich of the PIPC (ed.aldrich@me.com) before Saturday's meeting.

Also on the agenda

The ferry won't be the only order of business on Prudence Saturday. Mr. Klimm will give an update on the bids received for the town's request for proposals (RFP) to fix the broken wind turbine behind the tennis courts at the high school.

In 2007 voters approved a $3 million bond issue for the turbine. It's been idle since June 2012 due to a broken gear box, and the town has been weighing its options ever since.

After negotiations broke down with two bidders who responded in December 2012 to the town's original RFP, the town put the project back out to bid with a July 12 deadline.

Sitting as the Board of License Commissioners, the council will also consider a request by Custom House Coffee, 600 Clock Tower Square, to expand its service area as well as its hours. The business wants to set up an outside terrace and patio area and increase its hours of service from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The council will also request to advertise a municipal court ordinance and set a date for a public hearing.

With reporting by Eric Dickervitz.


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