2009-02-05 / Front Page

Town Council shows support for Fort Getty sailing center

Memorandum of understanding needed before official vote
By Adrienne Downing

The sailing center at Fort Getty moved one step closer to reality on Jan. 28 during a joint workshop between town parties with interest in the Fort Getty Master Plan and the Town Council.

Although all aspects of the Ft. Getty improvement project were discussed, representatives from the Harbor and Planning Commissions, the recreation department, the Fort Getty Committee and the Town Council agreed the sailing center was the most attainable and fiscally manageable project on the list of improvements to the Jamestown landmark.

"When you think of the Fort Getty comprehensive plan as a whole, all of the sudden you are dealing with an amount of money that makes everyone step back and say 'wait a minute, we'll get to that someday,'" Councilman Bob Sutton said. "We could do a sailing program now and not disrupt the future of what we have planned for Ft. Getty."

Town councilors, however, were cautious about giving FAST, the group that wants to build the sailing center, the go ahead to start fund-raising until the two parties meet with solicitors to draw up an agreement. "I don't think anyone should raise 10 cents without a memorandum of understanding. I think we should start this off being on the same page," Sutton said.

Town Council president Julio DiGiando expressed enthusiasm for the project, but cautioned against moving too quickly. "Do we have a handle on what the town needs to do?" he said. "It is easy to say it sounds good, go ahead and do it, but what is the cost to the town?"

FAST has agreed to raise $300,000 to build the center, but buying the sailboats needed for a sailing program, staffing the center during the summer months, maintenance and utilities are all costs that need to be considered, said Recreation Director Bill Piva. "The recreation department is very enthusiastic about working with FAST, but my only concern is that I want the assurance that capital is available for the town to have a sailing program," he said.

FAST board member Rob Salk said the town does not have to agree to run a sailing program as part of the proposal. "There has been interest from both the Jamestown Yacht Club and the Conanicut Yacht Club in helping with the program," Salk said.

Jamestown Yacht Club Rear Commodore Chris Brown said that the JYC board has discussed the program at their meetings, and would be willing to work with Piva to set the program in motion, including the hiring of coaches, but not necessarily run the program themselves.

Both sides agreed to table the discussion of the program's particulars until Town Administrator Bruce Keiser has met with the town solicitor and the memorandum is brought before the Town Council for a vote. If the memorandum is ready, the center would be an agenda item for the Monday, Feb. 16, Town Council meeting.

Fort Getty improvements

One major improvement near the top of Fort Getty committee chairwoman Mary Meagher's list, that would go hand-in-hand with the center, is placing power lines underground from the pier to the gate house. "The power lines on the main road need to be taken care of whether there is a sailing center or not," Meagher said.

The power to the lines will have to be shut off during the 420 Nationals this summer because of the danger and liability posed by moving sailboats around the power lines, Meagher said. Alternatives to burying the lines, including the use of solar power to light the dock, were proposed by Salk and Sutton. Burying the lines or removing them would be coordinated with National Grid, Meagher said.

Meagher said building the sailing center and improving the boat ramp would create a need for additional parking in the area. "Moving the road to accommodate the necessary parking area has the added benefit of improving the buffer to Sheffield Cove. We are concerned about eroding this area from the land side, so this would ultimately help with that," she said.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer said the goal is for all of the improvements to work together to make the park more user friendly for all Jamestown residents. "The reason this is before the council is because the sailing center has a source of funding, but we need to make sure the other stakeholders are not ignored in the process," she said.

Salk said if the council gives its blessing to the project, he is hopeful and optimistic the fundraising could be completed by the fall and the entire project could be completed in nine months to one year.

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