2012-12-20 / News

Harbor board will pay for Sandy

East Ferry woodpile pier needs expensive repairs
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

Hurricane Sandy will hit the Harbor Commission in the pocketbook, the panel learned at its Dec. 12 meeting.

According to Police Chief Ed Mello, town officials are still obtaining repair estimates and working with contractors. To date, the exact cost is unknown, but chances are the Harbor Commission will have to dig into its capital budget to make repairs to structures such as the East Ferry woodpile pier. The pier was badly damaged in the storm and is not covered by municipal insurance.

“We’re going to be running in the red for a while,” said Harbor Commission Chairman Michael de Angeli.

“The biggest variable and largest cost as far as harbor is East Ferry,” Mello said. According to Mello, who serves as the Harbor Department’s executive director, more than 50 percent of the decking is missing on the woodpile pier, and most of the remaining planks were “damaged or loose.”

The sewage pump-out was also destroyed, Mello said, along with the utilities underneath. That includes eight to 10 electrical pedestals. The Public Works Department will repair the decking.

Town Engineer Michael Gray was still obtaining price estimates for the electrical repair work, but Mello anticipates “a big number.” As a guideline, he said, past work on the woodpile pier ran around $100,000, and this job could cost a similar amount.

“We made a $100,000 investment to make repairs in the past,” Mello said. “We may be talking about that again.”

Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance will pay for 75 percent of the repair work, but the pier is not covered by the town’s insurance policy.

Commissioner Patrick Bolger asked why the woodpile bridge was not included on the inventory of town assets, which are automatically protected.

Mello replied the reason was due to a “complicated” lease arrangement.

Bolger said he was surprised to hear there was a possibility the woodpile pier was not insured. In a lease arrangement, Bolger said the town usually required the leaseholder to provide insurance.

Mello said the insurance status was still being investigated.

“If it’s not covered in town insurance and not covered in lease insurance, then we’re lying there naked,” Bolger said.

Commissioners also learned that Jamestown taxpayers will not have to pay additional costs for the two seawall repair projects underway at East Ferry. One project is being financed by the state Department of Transportation, Mello said, and is being “extended” due to Hurricane Sandy.

The other project, to repair the seawall between the pier and the boat ramp, is a joint project of the town and the Harbor Commission. The contractor, Cardi Corporation, said the storm erosion was minimal and would not add to the $400,000 project costs.

However, the commissioners will be expected to pony up money for storm-related repairs at Fort Getty and at West Ferry. FEMA will not pay for repairs to any structures on land, he said, so there is no federal aid to restore the damaged causeway at Fort Getty.

Bolger asked if the town will take care of the causeway repairs. “It’s hazardous,” he said.

“Yes, it’s got to be fixed,” Mello said, but added other damaged assets at Fort Getty will be eligible for FEMA aid.

For example, the hurricane also impacted the Fort Getty pier, which will be repaired through a combination of town labor, FEMA reimbursements and insurance payments.

“The pier itself had damage to the decking and pilings,” Mello said. In addition, a bumper surrounding the deck went missing during the storm. The Public Works Department is doing the work on the decking, he said, and the town is obtaining a repair estimate from the contractor who won the bid to repair the outhauls and dolphins at Fort Getty and West Ferry.

The money to do the storm repairs will ultimately come from a combination of insurance payments, harbor money and FEMA reimbursements, Mello said.

“Where is all this money going to come from?” de Angeli said. “You’re suggesting we go into the capital budget.”

Mello said he estimated $148,000 was available in the capital budget. He also said the commissioners should postpone all new capital improvement projects planned for 2013 but reassess the financial situation at mid-year, leaving themselves an option to go forward if some of the Hurricane Sandy repairs cost less than anticipated.

“My suggestion would be, let’s finish up the projects we have and not commit any new projects,” Mello said. “At mid-year, if the number is more manageable, you can take a look at capital projects then.”

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