NARRAGANSETT - Deborah Kelso, executive director of the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce, voiced her opposition to the Quonset fast ferry proposal during a chamber meeting last week, according to Rhode Island Fast Ferry Owner Charles Donadio Jr.
The Quonset Fast Ferry is proposing to launch a new route between Quonset and Block Island and is scheduled to begin operating as early as next summer. The ferry will run two to four round trips daily, lasting approximately 45 to 50 minutes from Quonset to Block Island.
According Donadio, the route will provide a less expensive and stressful experience, and will decrease traffic to the Galilee area.
Donadio said that he received a call from Kelso on Monday, July 29, stating her opposition to the fast ferry, despite the positive feedback from members of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce on the proposed ferry.
“She was letting me know that there had been a vote taken on Wednesday to file an opposition to my application to start-up a fast ferry service from Quonset Point to Block Island,” said Donadio. “I was speechless and had asked her on what grounds would the chamber of commerce be against a growing business which was investing money and adding jobs?”
Donadio said that Kelso was concerned that a fast ferry from Quonset would siphon the passengers from the Block Island Ferry thus creating hardship for the local business in Galilee. He also said that Kelso stated that she would be in favor of the plan if it would operate from Narragansett.
“I am extremely disappointed in this decision and feel I was blindsided by not given the opportunity to be involved in any discussions that were going on behind closed doors,” said Donadio.
Donadio questioned Kelso’s economics and how she came to quantify the financial impact of a new out-of-town ferry service to Block Island, and Kelso stated that she will address the financial impact at the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (DPUC) meeting.
Not only has he been a resident of Narragansett for the past 33 years, but Donadio has also been a member of the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce for 18 years and served on the board of directors from 1996 to 2012.
Even though his company is located in North Kingstown, he said his company and family have always been big supporters of the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce as well as the local community and school system.
Martha Pughe, executive director of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce, said that the chamber believes having a fast ferry would be a great thing for North Kingstown, especially to highlight the tourism.
“We think this is a great opportunity for Charlie and also for Quonset because it is definitely a tourist driven area, so I think that is a win-win for everyone,” said Pughe.
In response to the opposition made by Kelso due to her concern about the welfare of the local businesses in Galilee, Pughe said that businesses thrive from competition.
“It is a competition and competitions make other businesses stronger. It is a free market and you can’t say no to a business who wants to make a go at what they want to promote and want to make money on,” said Pughe. “If something was going in on another town and it would be direct competition to something that was going on in North Kingstown, we would strive to make our business a stronger business. There are numerous incidents where you can say it is a direct competition, and all we can say to our businesses is, what can we do to make you better and make you stronger?”
Donadio said that Kelso personally added the motion to the agenda and not at the request of any local Galilee business. He believes that the move made by Kelso was strictly political.
“The only fact is that a Block Island Ferry representative Megan Moran currently sits on the board of directors and is the immediate past chair who has worked very closely with Mrs. Kelso over the last several years, in my opinion this motion was purely political,” said Donadio. “What does this vote by the chamber say to current members of the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce whose businesses are located outside the town line?”
When contacted on Thursday, Deb Kelso said the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce has a statement forthcoming. She offered no further comment.