2014-01-16 / Front Page

Harbor says it’s not responsible for pier

By Margo Sullivan

If the councilors decide to restore the old East Ferry pier, the town should foot most of the bill, said Harbor Chairman Michael de Angeli at the commission’s Jan. 8 meeting.

Angeli was responding to recent comments from resident William Kelly about restoring the crumbling dock.

Kelly addressed the Town Council on Dec. 16 and asked the councilors to include the pier work in the capital improvements budget. At the time, he also suggested the harbor account could be tapped to pay for the project.

Town Clerk Cheryl Fernstrom forwarded the meeting minutes to Harbor Clerk Kim Devlin. Fernstrom’s memo indicated the matter concerned the harbor office and would require follow-up.

At last week’s meeting, the commissioners accepted the memo as correspondence and voted to put the topic on their February meeting agenda.

The commissioners could contribute to the improvements but would probably limit their role to relocating the touch-and-go dock, de Angeli said, and not commit to paying for the bulk of the project.

“Bill Kelly suggests we be responsible for the old dilapidated pier at East Ferry,” de Angeli said. “I agree it should be done.”

He did not agree, however, the project should be “a harbor responsibility.”

The Harbor Commission could take charge of moving the touchand go dock to a better place, he said, but the rest of the project should not be a concern of the board because the repairs would not have anything to do with “boating functions or access to the water.”

Moreover, the improvements could cost several hundred thousand dollars, de Angeli said. He noted the pier is not on the current list of harbor facilities.

At their next meeting, the commissioners will research the inventory of waterfront assets compiled by Town Engineer Mike Gray and Commissioners Larry Eichler and Ed McGuirl.

“Is there anything in there about the East Ferry pier being rebuilt?” de Angeli asked.

“No,” Eichler said. “It wasn’t on Mike Gray’s list.”

Turning to Devlin, de Angeli asked about her inventory. Did she have the pier listed as a harbor asset or a facility shared with the town?

Devlin replied the pier was considered a town facility.

“100 percent town,” she said.

“There’s no action to take here,” de Angeli said. He recommended the commissioners should accept the memo as correspondence.

“That’s all we need to do tonight,” he said.

Commissioner David Cain concurred. “It’s not in our purview,” he said.

“It brings up the eternal question,” McGuirl added. “Who’s responsible?”

McGuirl’s comment referred to disagreements between the Harbor Commission and the Town Council over expending the waterfront funds to pay for town-wide projects.

This year, the harbor board paid the first of five roughly $40,000 annual installments toward the cost of the repairs made to the East Ferry seawall. The past council required the commission to contribute half the cost, even though the harbor commissioners expressed reservations about using their account. Harbor funds come from mooring fees, de Angeli said, and they were paying for what essentially amounted to a road project.

Since the East Ferry pier is listed as a town asset on the facilities inventory, it’s unclear why the pier work should qualify as a waterfront project, the commissioners said.

In other business, de Angeli asked if the commissioners will have to raise mooring fees this year.

“If we’re comfortably in the black, I’m thinking not,” he said.

Commissioner Bruce Dickinson has volunteered to take over as the budget point man. He was appointed recently to replace Commissioner Chris Brown, who stepped down because he reached his term limit.

“The major issue is going to be long-term planning,” de Angeli said. The budget, he added, must include money in anticipation of a project to replace the East Ferry boat ramp.

It’s going to be a big project, he said, and the current proposal only calls for a temporary fix.

Police Chief Ed Mello said the estimate for the big project is not yet ready.

The temporary repair will run around $10,000, de Angeli said.

“As we discussed, there is a possibility of getting a couple of years of life out of the ramp,” Mello said.

However, that will not be known until after the budget has been adopted. Mello says it’s hard to forecast when the temporary fix will run its course and the ramp will have to be replaced.

“That’s why we need to put money in the budget,” de Angeli. The commissioners hope to save for the project over the next few years.

In other business, the harbor commissioners re-elected de Angeli and Cain as chairman and vice chairman, respectively. This year will be de Angeli’s last due to term limits.

Also, the commissioners appointed Cain as their representative on the town’s traffic board.

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