Woodpile pier repairs discussed at joint session
Town Councilors and Harbor Management Commission members met at a workgroup last Thursday to discuss several issues of mutual interest, including the usage of the town woodpile pier and the need to address previously identified deterioration at the East Ferry facility.
Town Council Vice President and harbor commission liaison Julio DiGiando presided over the meeting, which was spurred by an earlier request to better understand the issues surrounding the controversy over the use of the woodpile pier.
According to DiGiando, pier use issues have been looked at by numerous past town solicitors and councils, however, the issue has remained a point of contention for local boaters and fishermen. The issue centers on the distinction between public recreational use and transient dockage. There are three uses allowed on the pier: fishing, transient dockage, and recreation. "The challenge is treating those three uses fairly," DiGiando said.
The harbor commission has recommended that uses be clearly defined and separated by expanding the pier to allow for additional dockage and a more navigable layout.
Harbor Commissioner Terry Jones outlined a plan that called for the expansion of the woodpile pier at its north end through construction of a structure approximately 10 feet in width that would allow for an improved traffic flow and help physically establish distinct use areas.
Commissioners also took note of the state's efforts to convert the remains of the old Jamestown Bridge into a fishing pier. It was speculated that the completion of a Plum Beach fishing pier would significantly decrease the number of off-island fishermen who currently use the East Ferry facility. Accordingly, it was suggested that the town pass a resolution in support of the construction of a Plum Beach facility.
Saying that the town is "putting patches on a failing infrastructure," Commissioner Robert Bowen, who sits as chairman of the HMC Facilities Committee, stressed the need for a long-term investment in the town's pier infrastructure. "There's a major need there, and it's going to be expensive," Bowen said. While the need to make significant improvements to the pier was generally acknowledged, DiGiando expressed concern over the town's current spending pattern. "We have so many bills coming up," DiGiando said referring to the town's current and planned construction projects such as the new town hall, highway barn facility, and open space preservation efforts. In light of those costs, Di- Giando suggested that it might be more appropriate at this juncture to consider a less expensive, shortterm fix.
Bowen responded that none of that money in question being spent on capital improvements was going toward improving Jamestown's waterfront access, which is a vital aspect of the island's appeal.
Commissioner Andrew Kallfelz agreed, adding that the town was "woefully unprepared to serve the needs of our own community."
According to Kallfelz, the most immediate concern should focus on improving the town's touch and go facilities.
"The whole thing centers around touch and go," Kallfelz said. "It doesn't make sense to invest any more money into the town fishing pier. The town has to pay to police it, to clean it up, and to maintain it," he added. In the end, workgroup members supported the idea of installing a floating dock at the north end of the pier, however held off on committing to any further extensive improvements.
Town Administrator Bruce Keiser noted that the town has budgeted funds to increase public access to the water through the Ft. Getty Master Plan. Keiser suggested that in order to better gauge the funding needs as seen by the harbor commission that the town council be advised of any capital projects as they arise.
Councilman William Kelly looked forward saying "at some point, you're going to have to make improvements."
Keiser was asked to explore short-term solutions that could be implemented for next season and presented to town officials at a future meeting.
In a second matter of business, workshop members reviewed the physical condition of the woodpile pier and the need for improvements. Citing a 2001 inspection report which identified deficiencies such as missing braces, fastenings, and failing decking, workgroup members agreed to place the inspection recommendations on the facilities list as a high priority item.
Finally, HMC members and town councilors began to wrestle with the spending authority of the harbor commission. According to town records, the harbor commission has approved over $26,000 in engineering studies over the past two years. According to DiGiando, it is the town council - not the harbor commission - that bears ultimate responsibility for town expenditures.
Town officials who attended the meeting included Councilors Julio DiGiando, Michael Schnack, and William Kelly; Harbor Commission members Michael de Angeli, Rick Anderson, Andrew Kallfelz, Robert Bowen, Richard Ventrone, Chris Lutyens, and Terry Jones; Town Engineer Michael Gray, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, and Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero.