Seawall work may threaten landmark
Islanders stand to lose a favorite Jamestown landmark, the boulder by East Ferry, the Town Council found out Tuesday.
The rock has landed on the town engineer’s demolition list because it impedes the repair job on the East Ferry marina seawall.
The town councilors want to save the rock and spoke up when Town Engineer Mike Gray, mentioned in passing that the rock was in the way of work getting started.
“It’s almost like Plymouth Rock,” said Michael Schnack, town council president. He appeared incredulous when he heard about the Public Works Department’s plan to dispatch the boulder.
Gray announced the rock would have to go when he discussed the pending East Ferry seawall repair project.
“It has to go,” he said.
“What?” Schnack replied. He asked Gray to change the plan and not destroy the rock.
“Can you spare that rock?” Schnack asked, as several councilors murmured how much the children enjoy climbing on the boulder.
Gray did not commit to saving the boulder, but he appeared to agree to look for alternatives.
On Gray’s recommendation Tuesday, the council voted 4-1 to award the job contract to rebuild the seawall to Cardi Corporation of Warwick for $398,805.
Councilor Ellen Winsor cast the vote against the award. Winsor said she objected because she opposes the council’s earlier decision to take mooring fees, which the Harbor Commission collects, and redirect the funds to pay for town infrastructure.
Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said this financial arrangement calls for a 50-50 split between Harbor Commission revenues and town revenues. He said $38,000 of the repair cost will come from this year’s harbor budget and the balance of the commission’s roughly $200,000 share will be taken out over the coming five to seven years.
Gray said the repair job calls for replacing 270 feet of crumbling seawall, which stretches from the bulkhead to the boat ramp. The project also includes improvements for the sidewalks and the grass.
According to the bid spread sheet, eight companies bid on the project. Cardi was not the lowest bidder, but Gray said he disqualifi ed two companies, which had offered a lower price. Narragansett Dock Works bid $385,059 for the job, and KM Gladding of Jamestown bid $392,374. But Gray said those two firms had “not been responsive” to the bid specifications, and he ruled them out.
Other bids came in at $403,534, $422,135, $440,785 and $449,200. The high bidder was W.H. Peppes of Lincoln at $594,644.
Earlier, town officials indicated the work on the seawall could start as soon as Sept. 28.
In other business, the town councilors asked the town administrator to monitor the state’s activity related to tolls on the new Sakonnet Bridge, which is replacing the old Sakonnet span. The Portsmouth Town Council has taken an offi- cial stand against installing tolls on the Sakonnet Bridge. Portsmouth asked the Jamestown councilors to do the same, but the council said it is not ready to commit to a position. It plans to discuss the issue again at its first meeting in October.
Winsor asked for the item to be placed on the agenda.
“I think we need some more research before taking a position,” she said. “The business people in Portsmouth and Tiverton are very concerned.”
Winsor said she attended a meeting about the tolls. Gov. Lincoln Chafee and the director of the state Department of Transportation, Michael Lewis, attended.
“There was quite an angry audience,” she said. “The citizens of Portsmouth are being told the toll money would only go for the preservation and maintenance of the bridges.”
But the public is doubtful. “The people don’t trust the General Assembly,” she said. Winsor also said the tolls are only one option, and state officials are also considering a gas tax to pay to maintain roads and bridges, among other ideas.
Councilor Bob Bowen said the Sakonnet Bridge toll has been proposed as an alternative to raising the toll on the Newport Pell Bridge.
“That has a much higher impact on Jamestown,” he said. “I didn’t want to see toll money raised on the Newport Pell Bridge, especially when the money was going to maintain the Mount Hope Bridge.”
Councilor Bill Murphy agreed.
“No way do I want to sign up for this,” he said.
But Winsor said it wasn’t necessarily the case that the state would raise the tolls on the Newport Bridge if the plan to toll the Sakonnet Bridge was dropped.
Schnack said the R.I. Turnpike and Bridge Authority is going to maintain the Jamestown Bridge, the Newport Bridge, the Sakonnet Bridge and the Mount Hope Bridge, and all the maintenance costs could be paid for with tolls on the Newport span.
But Bowen said the transfer of the two bridges – the Jamestown and the Sakonnet – from the Department of Transportation to RITBA was supposed to be contingent on tolling the Sakonnet Bridge.
“It’s part of a larger transportation debate,” Keiser said. “There are a lot of balls in the air.”
“So this needs more study,” Schnack said, and directed Keiser to keep track of developments at RITBA and in the General Assembly, and then report back to the council.