2009-02-19 / Front Page

Harbor Commission discusses future of East Ferry, Fort Getty

By Erin Tiernan

The Harbor Management Commission discussed plans at its Feb. 11 meeting to create additional touch-and-go dock space at the marina at East Ferry to accommodate fishermen and boaters.

The commissioners also voted to begin the repairs at Ft. Getty.

Commissioners reviewed the marina plan drawings provided by Town Engineer Michael Gray and Senior Project Manager James Russell from the RT Group, who are advising on the project. They discussed the benefits of several alterations to the plans.

Commissioners agreed the goal of the project is to maximize touch and go space for boaters, create a separate area for fishermen and maximize the size of the fairway for the safe transit of boaters. The width of the fairway is a major concern. "It continues to be a disaster for anyone trying to get in and out on the south side," said Bill Munger, owner of Conanicut Marina.

Commissioner Robert Bowen suggested voting on definitive plans for the construction, "if we are planning on getting this done," he said, "which we were asked to do a year and a half ago." Chairman Michael deAngeli said he was not prepared to vote without new drawings.

Vice Chairman Andrew Kallfelz asked engineers Gray and Russell if it would be realistic to begin construction this spring. They said the waiting period for permits, contracts, shop drawings and bidding could take over month. The process needs to start in the fall to be finished by the end of next spring.

Kallfelz said they will finalize revisions to the drawings in the future since they can't begin construction until after the summer.

The repairs on the boat ramp at Ft. Getty scheduled to begin this fall are estimated at $19,360.25. Chairman deAngeli's motion to request funds from the town council to begin the project passed unanimously.

Repairs will include improvements to the existing boat ramp at Ft. Getty for the benefit of public access. Commissioners also discussed the addition of a fixed pier angled to the north side with a touch and go float to allow easier access for boats moored in the area.

Town Council Liaison Julio Di- Giando said the town would address the unsafe utility wires near the boat ramp and also keep the dock wired with electricity because the light there is used as a rescue point for that side of the island.

The Coastal Resources Management Council requires a sediment sample and submerged aquatic vegetation samples of eel grass, obtainable only in July, from Ft. Getty to determine eligibility for the dredging permits.

Munger commented that the town focuses the majority of its improvement projects on East Ferry and suggested they invest more in Ft. Getty. "It's a diamond in the rough," he said. "We need public workshops and community discussion to find out how the community wants Ft. Getty shaped."

Planning Commission liaison Nancy Bennett said the Planning Commission voted to prohibit helipads and helicopters landing on the island except in emergencies. She reported that citizens are concerned about development of commercial waterfront property and are especially opposed to establishments serving alcohol in the West Ferry area.

Gray said they began construction on the curbs and rails project Tuesday morning.

Kim Devlin, harbor clerk, said that some operating expenses would have to be cut in order to create an $8,000 to $10,000 contingency reserve. Chairman deAngeli proposed cutting money out of the website and technology allotments to add to the contingency.

"The town manager, because of the hard economic times, is going to be looking at salaries and benefits," Tighe said, adding that they hadn't had further discussion.

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