Outdoor entertainment licenses reinstated on Block Island; state police to increase patrolling

South County

NEW SHOREHAM, R.I. (WPRI) — A nearly three-hour meeting for New Shoreham’s Town Council resulted in new safety measures for mopeds and reinstating outdoor entertainment licenses on Block Island.

Council members said they had seen an uptick in moped accidents, crowds at the ferry, and day drinking at the bars. In a recent meeting, a councilor also claimed because of this, more COVID-19 cases were popping up on the island.

Last week, the town council voted to suspend all entertainment licenses on Block Island as a public health measure — they couldn’t pick and choose who could keep them, and who couldn’t.

Wednesday night, the council came out of a closed session to announce in a 4-0 vote, with one councilor recusing himself, councilors agreed to direct the town solicitor to accept the proposal that outdoor entertainment licenses be reinstated with limitations.

The limitations restrict outdoor entertainment from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., with two performers maximum per venue.

At the end of the meeting Wednesday, First Warden Ken Lacoste said the motion would go into effect as soon as the council town solicitor finished the negotiation.

The meeting also focused largely on moped safety measures.

Councilors decided effective immediately, to reduce the number of mopeds that each rental company can rent out per day from 34 to 25. Additionally, mopeds now must be returned to the rental company by 5 p.m., three hours earlier than the current return time.

In a continued emergency meeting on mopeds earlier in the week, councilors announced Rhode Island State Police (RISP) Troopers would come to Block Island to increase enforcement of motor vehicle violations.

Thursday morning, RISP announced additional Troopers, including members of the Division’s Traffic Safety Unit, will be deployed Friday and have a presence during peak times through the end of the summer.

Friday morning, Col. James Manni, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Department of Public Safety, will join Troopers and the Traffic Safety Unit to meet with the New Shoreham Police Chief and other town officials.

“Having two traffic fatalities in less than a week on the Island is a devastating reminder that tragedies can occur anywhere and at any time if unsafe driving behaviors are involved,” Manni said in a news release Thursday. “We need to act quickly in an environment where pedestrians, bicycles, mopeds, and cars are often sharing the same streets, and where many operators are unfamiliar with their surroundings.”

State police tell Eyewitness News that Troopers have been scheduled for various shifts, but will primarily assign seven Troopers to work each day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and through the Labor Day weekend.

RISP’s Traffic Safety Unit was launched in mid-November 2019. and has issued 3,751 citations, in addition to making 331 arrests for impaired driving and other violations. State police say the Unit is sent to “high-incidence areas of the state where impaired driving is especially problematic.”

State police say the members of the unit have been trained in specialized impaired driving detection techniques, which includes certification as drug recognition experts.

The recent issue on Block Island have also prompted Island tourism officials to speak out.

In an open letter posted Wednesday, Block Island Tourism Director Jessica Willi explains how islanders are “struggling, much like the rest of the world, with the new reality and complications of this pandemic.”

Willi goes on to say, “Unlike much of the world however, Block Island is in a more precarious position than most. Located 13 miles off the coast of the nation’s smallest state, we’re only accessible by boat or small aircraft. We have a volunteer fire and rescue squad, a limited medical center, and a small police department that is supplemented by Rhode Island state troopers on the busy summer weekends. And we’re right at the brink of being overwhelmed.”

Thursday night, the Respect Block Island Coalition is hosting a Zoom meeting on moped reform.

According to the coalition’s founder, panelists include, but are not limited to, Dr. Warcup, Chief Carlone, Town Councilor Sven Risom, John Leone, Michael Rock, and will be followed by an open discussion. 

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