2012-01-12 / Front Page

New dock could arrive near Fort Getty ramp

BY MARGO SULLIVAN

A new touch-and-go float could be coming to the waters by the Fort Getty boat ramp, the harbor commissioners said on Tuesday night, as they considered which capital improvement projects they want to prioritize.

But first, it will take action from the Coastal Resources Management Council, the state regulatory agency, to allow any new construc- tion in the environmentally sensitive Type 1 waters, said Harbor Commission Chairman Michael de Angeli at the Jan. 10 meeting. de Angeli said the original plan for the touch-and-go was to attach it to the fishing pier at Fort Getty. But that plan was ditched after currents proved too strong to be safe for small boats. The dock would be “far more useful” if located by the ramp, he said.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said the dock could be back in play if the CRMC agrees to change the designation of the waters off Fort Getty.

Town Councilor Bob Bowen has proposed asking the CRMC to downgrade the water from Type 1 to Type 2 to allow construction of the dock. Later this month, Bowen said, he and other town leaders will sound out a CRMC official to find out if such a change would be feasible.

Earlier, the Conservation Commission discussed the idea with Bowen and Harbor Commissioner Ed McGuirl but noted the waters off Fort Getty were designated as Type I because they abut a salt marsh and other protected resources.

The Harbor Commission has about $90,000 to allocate to projects annually, and money was the main topic when the commissioners looked at a list of possible harbor projects for fiscal year 2012- 13 and took a stab at the budget.

This budget is the first under the recently revised Harbor Management Ordinance. A new requirement obligates the commissioners to provide long-range infrastructure plans with the budget package.

Mike Gray, public works director, provided a list of capital improvement needs and offered to develop a spreadsheet for a five-year plan. That way, the commissioners could attach revenues to specific parts of the project, showing how they will pay, for example, for preliminary designs.

The list of capital improvement projects includes jobs at East Ferry, West Ferry and Fort Getty, including East Ferry seawall repairs and a new East Ferry boat ramp or a replacement.

Keiser said the Harbor Commission’s financial outlook was positive, except for one area of concern – revenues from commercial moorings.

“We will have to track that commercial side revenue closely to see what is happening,” he said.

Harbor Commissioner Larry Eichler said the drop in revenue could be related to the price hikes the harbor commissioners instituted this year.

“I’m not surprised,” Eichler said, citing the economy and the fees. “Our fees are high. People are getting sticker shock.” He added that people were leaving Jamestown for other harbors.

But de Angeli questioned where the boat owners would go to find a better deal.

Eichler couldn’t say but pointed out the harbor commissioners had raised the mooring fees by 25 percent last year.

“That’s a drop in the bucket,” de Angeli replied.

“It’s a drop for you, but not for everybody,” Eichler said. “I’m not arguing the position. I’m just reporting what owners have told us.” Eichler also asked the panel to delay a vote on the budget until they had more time to go over the information.

“There’s a lot of remaining money left unspent under infrastructure,” he said, looking at the current budget year to date numbers. Eichler said the commissioners had $93,000 left unspent. de Angeli said the first step was to balance the budget and decide which projects could be moved ahead of schedule and completed with the existing funds.

One project the commissioners all but dismissed was rebuilding the Fort Getty pier. According to Gray, the pier is structurally sound.

“If it’s just a fishing pier, the condition it’s in today is adequate for that use,” he said.

Bowen said there were some minor maintenance problems with the piles on the pier, which had rotted, and those repairs should be made. Currently, there is a hazard, he said.

In other business, the commissions resolved a question about how to handle yacht club members and others, who sank buoys and channel markers in Jamestown Harbor to delineate races and to alert boaters to hazards. The harbor commissioners have decided not to assess any fees for private aids to navigation. The panel did vote on Tuesday to revise the new Harbor Management Ordinance to cover signs and private aids to navigation as a special category of mooring. de Angeli drafted new sections for the ordinance to define a private aid to navigation and to specify permission from the harbormaster is required to drop a buoy in the harbor. The new language also puts responsibility for maintaining the signs and private navigation aids with the owners.

The changes happened in response to a complaint from the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard Auxiliary last summer spotted a dozen or so unregistered signs, channel buoys and other private aids to navigation in Jamestown Harbor and put town officials on notice. The buoys would have to be registered with the Coast Guard or be removed.

The panel voted up the amendments unanimously and forwarded the revisions to the Town Council for approval.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Keiser introduced Police Chief Edward Mello, who is taking over as executive director of the commission. He will be formally appointed to the post by the Town Council next week.

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