2011-10-20 / Front Page

East Ferry seawall repairs may cost more than expected

The East Ferry seawall is scheduled for repairs, but the job may cost more than originally estimated.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser told the commissioners at their Oct. 12 Harbor Management Commission meeting that the Town Council will reassess the situation and decide whether or not to authorize additional money for the project. Several sections of the seawall are damaged Keiser said there is a possibility the state will pay for a section north of the boat ramp as part of the Conanicut Avenue improvement project, which is on the state’s list of approved transportation jobs.

The state owns the seawall north of the boat ramp, but Jamestown owns the 300-foot section between the ramp and the boat launch.

The Works Progress Administration built the concrete and mortar seawall between 1935 and 1938, Public Works Director Mike Gray said. Although the WPA’s work has stood the test of time, in last winter’s weather top sections of the seawall crumbled and dropped into the water. Numerous cracks also reveal wear and tear, he said.

Both the East Ferry seawall and the seawall along Dumpling Drive sustained damage during last winter, Gray said.

Dumpling Drive’s seawall is being fixed with Public Works Department labor and a new material – modular concrete blocks – which the City of Newport used to rebuild a seawall near Brenton State Park. Modular blocks, which look like split granite, save money on both materials and labor, he said.

“We can do the job ourselves,” Gray said. “We don’t have to hire a contractor.”

But although that option’s still on the table for East Ferry, he said, he’s leaning toward cast concrete because modular blocks would alter the seawall’s appearance.

“I just don’t know if everyone would be happy with that,” he said, and that’s why he intends to take the question back to the Town Council.

The state recently repaired another damaged section of seawall near the Bay View, with cast concrete. Gray said he is leaning toward cast concrete, even though the price will be higher.

That’s the reason he may ask the councilors for more money, he said. It’s not the case that the seawall damage is more extensive than originally thought.

Despite a few extra expenses due to Hurricane Irene, the summer of 2011 left the harbor management office in good financial shape, the commissioners learned at the meeting.

Harbor Clerk Kim Devlin reported that one large outstanding account had been paid up, and the harbor management office budget was on target.

Local residents will find two different versions of the proposed new Harbor Management Ordinance advertised in the newspaper before the Nov. 7 public hearing at Town Hall, according to Town Councilor Bob Bowen.

“There’ll be two pieces put forward, two advertised revisions: A, the Harbor Commission, and B, the [town] administrator,” said Bowen, who is the Town Council liaison to the Harbor Commission. “Both would stand alone.”

Bowen said legal counsel confi rmed his opinion that two versions now exist of the ordinance’s budget section because the harbor commissioners made changes after the Town Council agreed on its own revisions.

“Given the fact you had taken action at your September meeting to modify what I had proposed,” he said, “my view is, that still stands, [with respect to] mooring fees.”

The Town Council and the Harbor Management Commission over the summer had disagreed about several finance and budget questions covered under the revised harbor ordinance, including whether revenues from moorings and other boating fees must be used to improve the harbor.

Several councilors argued the money could be diverted to pay for other municipal projects, but the harbor commissioners objected.

The two panels also had disputed rights of families to transfer moorings to relatives other than a spouse or child. Councilors said no other Rhode Island community allows perpetual rights over moorings, but the harbor commissioners differed and upheld the traditional Jamestown practice.

Bowen said the councilors have “gone over the ordinance.” The attorney has reviewed it, and the next step was set for the council’s Oct.17 meeting when the councilors voted to advertise the revised ordinances. He also urged the commissioners to attend the Nov. 7 public hearing, so they could answer residents’ questions but said this would not be a joint meeting of the Harbor Commission and the Town Council.

In other business, commissioners discussed – but postponed – action on a possible amendment to the newly revised Harbor Management Ordinance.

Maurice Laflamme, in a letter to the commissioners, pointed out a potential problem for the East Passage Estates Lot Owners Association, which owns two large waterfront lots by Cranston Cove. Under the new ordinance, the association, which has 100 members, would be allowed only four moorings because their property will be viewed as one lot, Laflamme said. He feels eight moorings would be “more appropriate for two such large parcels” and proposed the commissioners could add language to accept the large lots comprising 200 feet or more.

Michael de Angeli, chairman of the Harbor Management Commission, said the commissioners would not act on the proposal now because the revised ordinance is still pending and it was too late to amend the ordinance before the Nov. 7 public hearing.

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