2009-10-01 / News

Ft. Getty panel debates survey questions

By Phil Zahodiakin

The Ft. Getty Master Plan Committee recently held initial discussions on the questions local residents would be asked in a survey of their opinions on the future of Ft. Getty. Though just when the survey will be launched remains unclear, the pressure to make decisions on costly infrastructure repairs and facility expansion is greater than ever.

In her opening remarks during the Sept. 24 meeting, Committee Chairperson Mary Meagher noted that the updated Ft. Getty Master Plan recommended a full suite of initiatives for the 35-acre park and campground in 2005.

But the town was focused on the town hall and highway barn back then.

“So, we stalled,” Meagher said. “But the time is right to start work.”

That work, however, will have to wait for decision-makers to untangle a knot of layout questions. For example, should the town relocate the uppermost tier of camp sites and turn that area, which overlooks the West Passage, into a public park? Should the town build a wedding-and-banquet hall north of the pavilion?

The Wind Energy Committee is about to recommend an answer to a related question – namely, should the town build wind turbines at Ft. Getty and, if so, where? If the turbines are not sited near the pavilion, would they displace any camp or tent sites? Moreover, would the turbines provide a net revenue stream to pay for some of the Ft. Getty work?

The infrastructure questions are as challenging as the layout questions. Recreation Department Clerk Andrea Masterson said that it will cost $1 million to run a water line from the nearest subdivision and loop it around to all of the camp sites. But, “it would cost less than half of that,” she said, if the water line was brought only as far as the outer edge of the campground and hooked into the existing water line (leaving questionable water pipes in place).

Then there’s the electrical system, which currently provides 30 amps per camp site. Should the town provide 50 amps at every site, or just some of them? Should the town ban any RV whose appliances draw more than a total of 50 amps?

There are also questions about the future of the substandard boat dock. Mike deAngeli, who serves the committee as liaison to the Harbor Commission, said, “We plan to repair the ramp as signifi- cantly as we can,” adding, “But do you want to build a dock there? Those are ecologically sensitive waters. We could add more moorings, but the parking area is overcrowded already.”

Meagher had already referred to parking in general, saying, “As things improve at Ft. Getty, parking will become more of an issue.”

Another issue for consideration is the road that runs throughout Ft. Getty. Should it be repaved?

“The cost for all two miles would be about $1.1 million,” Masterson said.

All told, Ft. Getty provides about $390,000 a year in net revenue from fees, and “those days will be gone” once the projects – whatever they are – are underway, Town Planner Lisa Bryer told the Press. Bryer, who serves on the committee as liaison to the Planning Department, added, “There’s no doubt that we will replace the revenue eventually, but not until the work is paid off.”

That raises another question: Should the town issue a bond to pay for reconstruction at Ft. Getty?

There is already a contentious debate over the possibility of asking residents with wells and septic systems to help pay the debt service for Jamestown water and sewer bonds. Will residents agree that the campers at Ft. Getty provide enough benefits to the town to justify additional debt?

A previous survey of town merchants indicated that Jamestown retailers are pro-campground. Moreover, the campground “has provided a lot of revenue over the years, and not much of it has been put back, which has been a source of some bitterness [among the campers],” Meagher said.

The committee meeting was open for public participation, so the panel spent some of its time listening to such observations as, “Ft. Getty is the most ‘needy’ of any campground in the Northeast.” Other public comments included a warning from a seasonal camper, who asserted that wind turbines would envelop the area in “noise pollution.”

Bryer told the Press, however, “Our [wind energy] consultant says that, above a certain wind speed, the wind will actually be louder than the turbine.”

When asked about the suggestion of another seasonal resident, who urged the committee to include cost estimates for various projects in its survey, Bryer said, “It is our responsibility to let the Council know the costs of all the proposals, and, yes, we will include those estimates in the survey, as we have previously.”

The Master Plan Committee will continue its discussions on the survey, and possibly produce a draft of the questions, on Nov. 5.

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