NORTH KINGSTOWN- The North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce reiterated this past week its support of the proposed fast ferry in Quonset after the Narragansett chamber expressed its opposition to the service.
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, stating that it will unfairly draw business from the Port of Galilee and its ferry to Block Island in Narragansett
“Mr. Donadio is in wonderful standing with the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce, and we see this as a fair market issue,” said executive director Martha Pughe. “They will be in competition with each other, but you have to ask yourself, if I have a competitor, how do I make myself stronger to compete?”
“We feel Mr. Donadio needs to do whatever he needs to be successful, and [Interstate Navigation] can do the same,” she added. “If something was going on in another town and it would be in direct competition to something that was going on in North Kingstown, we would strive to make our business a stronger business.”
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 to Rhode Island Fast Ferry founder and owner, Charles Donadio Jr., 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?”
“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,” he added.
In a letter to The Standard Times, Kelso justified her chamber’s position on opposing Donadio’s fast ferry service.
“The RI Fast Ferry to Block Island at the Quonset Industrial Park option will only siphon travelers who otherwise would be headed for Galilee,” wrote Kelso. “There is not enough of a geographical distance to attract new travelers from a new market. There is no elusive new market to draw from to fill the RI Fast Ferry at Quonset, [and] will have to rely on enticing existing Galilee passengers to veer off Route 4 onto Route 403 into the Quonset Industrial Park.”
Kelso further noted that the Galilee landing fee, which generated approximately $82,000 for Narragansett in the last fiscal year, would be reduced and thus deprive the town of a valuable source of income.
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.
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, [and] 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?”
Donadio stated that the pre-hearing conference for his application with the DPUC will be heard on Aug. 21.