2011-07-28 / Front Page

Renovated Fort Getty boat ramp ‘useless’

BY TRACY O’NEILL

The Harbor Management Commission met on July 13 and listened to islanders’ complaints concerning the newly renovated boat ramp at Fort Getty.

Clarke’s Village Road resident Russ Paskoski in an unscheduled appearance approached the board regarding the inability to launch watercraft at the ramp. Paskoski, who has used the ramp for several years, noted that difficulties in launching from a float trailer or roller trailer have occurred since the town improvements to the ramp took place.

Although the ramp is a shallow water launch, the difficulties are occurring at high tide, with boaters having to back their vehicles into the water in order to get enough water to float or push the craft off a trailer.

Several members of the commission, as well as Department of Public Works Director Michael Gray, weighed in on the residents’ assertions that the town’s improvements have rendered the ramp useless to boaters.

“You’re suggesting that the grade of the slope is so gentle that you can’t get enough depth of water,” said Vice Chairman Andrew Kallfelz. “So by implication are you suggesting that we changed the slope when we built the new ramp or we shortened it to the point where you can’t get any water?”

“The slope is not deep enough to get the boat to float,” Paskoski said. “It’s shallower than it used to be. I know that we spent a lot of money. It really is non-functional.”

The improvements to the ramp in question were made through a Coastal Resource Management Council maintenance assent, which requires the project to maintain consistency with the existing design. Any move away from that consistency would be considered a change by CRMC and require further approval and permitting.

Chairman Mike de Angeli asked Gray to explain the work done on the ramp, which was a public works project, inquiring as to how the grade got changed.

“It didn’t get changed,” said Gray. “It was a maintenance assent. All we did was carry the grade and extend it 25 feet. That’s the project that we had.”

Harbormaster Sam Patterson affi rmed that he had heard a lot of people mention the problems with the ramp. Addressing Paskoski’s concerns directly, Patterson said, “You’re right. I’ve heard a lot of people say that and everyone has to realize that is a shallow area. The reason you could do that before was that over the course of years a gully was dug out.”

Several long-term suggestions were made to address the issue, including returning to CRMC to address the possibilities of a floating ramp and dredging. For the immediate future, de Angeli and Kallfelz suggested that the town affirm that the now existing grade is consistent with what was there before and with the requirements of the maintenance assent.

In other business, the harbormaster’s report was positive, with 11 new permits being issued, five on each side and one at Mackerel Cove. The mooring inventory and computer tracking system were reported to be going well. Patterson will visit moorings proactively to counteract the need for excessive forfeiture appeals next season.

“The moorings will be visited and we’ll be going back,” Patterson said. He added that if there are no boats at a mooring – or if a grace period was not requested by the end of the season – that the town will keep track of all unoccupied moorings and mooring holders will be given the opportunity to comply within 30 days.

Patterson reported that the pumpouts at both ferries were working fine, although a sign will need to be placed at the East Ferry pump with instructions to allow the pump to run a few minutes before it gets going.

The conservation area was noted to be a surprise to boaters. Although there is a large “no boats” restrictive float in place, Patterson recommended that at least 10 additional markers be purchased and put in place.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, sitting in for Police Chief Thomas Tighe until his replacement has arrived, addressed project concerns and bids for the Dumpling Road seawall. Looking at a retaining wall system, the town has considered a design similar to that used by the city of Newport in its repairs at the Ocean Road seawall.

The project, with an estimated $65,000 overage from what was originally anticipated, is somewhat of an emergency. Reductions in costs will be softened by utilizing roadpaving funds, leaving approximately $40,000 to be absorbed by the harbor commission and the town.

“I think that we’re thinking it would be about an extra $20,000 from harbor and $20,000 from the town,” said Keiser. “It’s somewhat of an emergency. More damage could occur. We could lose the road at Dumpling Drive.”

Keiser, in addressing proposed changes to the Harbor Management Ordinance specific to mooring fees, presented his case that mooring fees should go back to the people. Discretionary language presented, giving the Town Council the ability to direct funds elsewhere and ultimately the general fund, is in opposition to a prior harbor commission language proposal, allowing harbor to maintain funds for harbor infrastructure. de Angeli, noting that the proposed changes were not being immediately addressed by the Town Council, recommended that the commission review the language and revisit the administrator’s recommendation at a later meeting.

Bob Bowen, liaison to the Town Council, noted that the council, which has already reviewed the harbor language proposal, may be inclined to add its own changes.

The next scheduled meeting of the Harbor Management Commission is Wednesday, Aug. 10.

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