PROGRESS REPORT, DECEMBER 2009
Progress continues to be made, despite adverse action by the Quonset Development Corporation Board...
1) Our negotiations with the Navy continue to move forward: As previously reported, the Environmental, Curatorial/Museum, and Community Support Plans of our application were found to meet the minimum requirements for donation. Until we finalize a mooring site with the State, we cannot complete the remaining sections of the Navy application, which are site-dependent.
2) The Russian submarine has been successfully moved from Collier Point Park and is now ready for scrapping. The sinking of the sub was a true test of fire for this organization; a less hardy and determined group might have thrown in the towel a year ago April. The Foundation was able to convince the Department of Defense that raising this sub would be a once-in-a-lifetime training opportunity. Unfortunately, the deterioration caused by being underwater for more than a year was severe. We cannot justify the investment required to restore and reopen the sub as a public attraction. We have since sold the sub to a scrapper. The final purchase price is contingent upon the net revenues generated by scrap and artifact sales. The world scrap metals market is extremely volatile, so it is difficult to predict the end result. Generally stated, whatever the foundation eventually receives will be applied to our ongoing efforts to create a world-class family attraction, education center, job training facility, museum and memorial on Narragansett Bay
...But Some Hurdles Remain: We are still frustrated by an interagency disagreement that threatens to derail the project. Narragansett Bay waters are classified differently by Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) and Department of Environmental Management (DEM). There is no correlation between the CRMC Water Type designation and the water quality designation by DEM; each originated differently using different criteria. In simple terms, CRMC says that our proposed use is too clean for the Davisville site (or anywhere else in Narragansett Bay that could accommodate a ship of that size), while DEM is concerned that our use may be too dirty. The problem is, we're talking about exactly the same water! As we reported previously, a year ago the Foundation filed a formal Petition with the Coastal Resources Management Council arguing that, contrary to the staff position, our proposed project is a permitted use in such waters. After we filed that petition, CRMC staff stonewalled the Foundation and refused to schedule a hearing. Instead, they went to the Quonset Development Corporation for help in pulling their chestnuts out of the fire. The QDC board went into in an executive session, where the QDC staff presented a letter, prepared in advance and replete with factual errors, that canceled our reservation--thus mooting our petition before CRMC. To us, this smacks of the ultimate back room deal, staged by one state agency (QDC) to help protect another state agency (CRMC) from defending an action that was perhaps unwinnable.
These ongoing hurdles do not mark the end of the road--they are simply additional obstacles that have been placed in our path to be overcome. The public (and our political leadership) are well aware of the staying power, the persistence and the resiliency of our organization. At the end of the day, I am confident we will prevail.
We have resisted the urge to become more aggressive, despite the lack of fairness (and in some cases, lack of due process) afforded the Foundation. We understand that our argument for ongoing support depends on the substance of our message and the merits of the project itself, rather than an evaluation of how we have been treated along the way. Instead of taking the adversarial approach, we have quietly argued our case to key decisionmakers.
During the summer, directors and local supporters of the Saratoga Museum Foundation met in a private one-hour meeting with RI Governor Donald Carcieri. The following is an excerpt of the thank you letter sent by Foundation president Frank Lennon:
Thank you for taking more than an hour from your busy schedule to discuss the future of the Saratoga project with our team. The extra time you spent with us--especially during height of budget negotiations--was most appreciated, because it reinforced your sincere interest in what our group of volunteers and donors has been trying to accomplish for the past 11 years.
Discussions at the highest levels within the administration are ongoing. Our supporters at the General Assembly have also continued out-of-session efforts on our behalf. In the meantime, we have other initiatives in the works that could significantly expand the economic development potential of this project. While we are not prepared to provide further details now, you can expect more information soon. On behalf of all volunteers and supporters who have labored so hard over the past 11 years to bring this project to the brink of success, we want to assure everyone that we will continue to fight until the battle is won.
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