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Kelso steps down from chamber

September 13, 2013

(Narragansett Times File Photo) Deb Kelso has resigned as Executive Director of the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce.

NARRAGANSETT—Kevin Mulholland, president of the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce, confirmed on Thursday that executive director Deb Kelso will resign from her position, effective today.

He also stated that the chamber voted on Aug. 20 to rescind its previous motion to intervene against Rhode Island Fast Ferry’s proposed route from Quonset to Block Island.

“Yes, she has decided to move on,” said Mulholland. “She’s been there six years, and it is a tough job answering the questions every day. She didn’t plan to stay there forever.”

“She is not leaving because of the issues going on, but just decided to move on,” he added.

Mulholland also confirmed that a new office manager will take up Kelso’s duties, beginning next week, although he declined to identify the person specifically because the chamber has not contacted him or her directly.

Kelso declined to comment further on her resignation.

Regarding the ferry route from Quonset to Block Island, proposed by Rhode Island Fast Ferry, Mulholland said that the Narragansett chamber had voted 7-0-1 on July 27 to file a motion to intervene in opposition, but after consulting further with board members, passed a motion on Aug. 20 to rescind their position. That motion passed 8-5-2.

The chamber, along with Interstate Navigation Company, operator of the Block Island Ferry, had issued their motion to intervene with the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (RIPUC) originally because members felt that the service from Quonset would take consumers away from businesses in South Kingstown and Narragansett.

“We were concerned with the fact that if [Rhode Island Fast Ferry] will be directing people into North Kingstown, that will directly affect almost every business in Narragansett and South Kingstown,” said Mulholland. “Our main concern is the Point Judith Road corridor and Galilee, but when you think about it, it is all the places on the way there.”

“We want people to go to the Holiday Inn in South Kingstown, not in North Kingstown,” he added. “We are more than happy for another ferry service if it is in Narragansett, but I don’t want competition in North Kingstown taking business out of Narragansett and South Kingstown. We are supposed to protect and support our members.”

Mulholland confirmed that their letter to rescind their motion against the proposed ferry service from Quonset to Block Island was sent out last Wednesday, stating that the delay between the chamber’s decision and its official submission to the RIPUC was down to editorial matters.

“The letter didn’t go out for a little while because it was a matter of language, and I wanted to look at it,” said Mulholland. “It did go out.”

According to Luly Massaro of the RIPUC, her office had not received the chamber’s letter as of Thursday afternoon.

“The only letter I have is [the chamber’s] motion to intervene of July 31,” she said.

The chamber president also addressed concerns in the public that Megan Moran, director of Group Sales for the Block Island Ferry and past chair of the chamber’s executive board, was biased as a voting member in the July 27 and Aug. 20 meetings.

“Everyone else was saying we were just protecting Interstate Navigation, but she never voted one way or the other on either vote,” said Mulholland. “Our vote was not for her, but to protect all our businesses in South Kingstown and Narragansett.”

Charles Donadio Jr., owner and operator of Rhode Island Fast Ferry, has criticized the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce’s opposition, as well as that of Interstate Navigation Company, to his proposed route in recent weeks. The Town of North Kingstown, South County Tourism Council and the Quonset Development Corporation have all sent letters in support of Donadio’s proposal for a new route from Quonset to Block Island, stating that competition is necessary in the current business climate.

“We feel Mr. Donadio needs to do whatever he needs to be successful, and [Interstate Navigation] can do the same,” said Martha Pughe, executive director of the North Kingstown chamber last month. “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.”

Motions to intervene remain in effect from Interstate Navigation, Block Island Ferry Services, LLC, the Town of New Shoreham, and Intrastate Nav. Company, owner of the docks on Block Island which are leased to Block Island Ferry for use.

The deadline for Rhode Island Fast Ferry to file direct testimony with the RIPUC is Oct. 4, and public hearings are scheduled to take place in April 2014.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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