Harbor board drafts budget
Mooring fees and other harbor rates are safe from an increase for at least one more summer, the Harbor Commission said Monday.
At a special budget meeting, the panel voted to approve an operating budget of about $226,000. As expected, commissioners will keep rates at current prices for the new fiscal year that starts July 1.
At its next regular meeting in February, the panel will review the long-term infrastructure budget, said Chairman Michael de Angeli.
Also on Monday, Reagan Construction started work on the project to repair outhauls and dolphins at Fort Getty and West Ferry. However, the commissioners cautioned they may have to table any new waterfront-improvement projects, due to a lack of funds.
About $73,000 will be available “by this time next year” for infrastructure projects, according to Police Chief Ed Mello. But, Mello went on to explain, about $45,000 of that sum is already earmarked for the Harbor Commission’s share of the East Ferry seawall project.
If the commission’s actual expenses do closely mirror the anticipated numbers in the budget, then there would not be sufficient money to start any new projects, said Mello, who acts as the Harbor Department’s executive director. But he suggested taking another look at the harbor finances in the spring to see if any funds had become available to tackle new projects.
The commissioners reiterated they are not happy about paying for half of the $400,000 seawall project – which is spread over five years – and expressed concern about the past Town Council’s decision to require the Harbor Commission to finance 50 percent of the costs for town infrastructure projects. Currently the harbor board is on the hook for the East Ferry seawall project, which is underway, and the Dumpling Drive repair project, which has been completed.
According to de Angeli, those two construction jobs – which will take $95,000 away from the Harbor Commission’s budget in this coming year – were “more or less forced on us by the old council.”
“It’s a very poor use of mooring fees,” he said. De Angeli added that he will ask the new Town Council to revisit the issue about using harbor fees for general improvement projects.
“This needs to be publicly aired,” he said. “People who don’t live here are paying for our road repairs.”
If the commissioners don’t speak up now, he said, it’s essentially letting the council know they are OK with the current spending practice. He suggested presenting two budgets: one with the updated seawall repair numbers and another with projects the commissioners want to prioritize.
Kim Devlin, harbor clerk, said she thought it was too late to revisit the past council’s decision.
De Angeli disagreed.
“That was then,” he said. “This is now.”
Bill Munger, who attended the meeting, said he also had a problem with the former council’s decision to take mooring fees for town projects. He would like to see the harbor money “go back to projects clearly connected with boating.”
Commissioner Patrick Bolger said the new Town Council has sent signals it might dip into the mooring fees to start new projects, such as restoring the old ferry slip at East Ferry.
“Now, the town’s gotten fairly aggressive about what projects they take on,” he said.
Commissioner Larry Eichler said the situation complicates the commission’s work of developing a harbor budget because the panel doesn’t know what the council might do.
Meanwhile, the harbor commissioners could be left without enough money to pay for future storm damages should another hurricane or nor’easter hit.
Also Monday, the commissioners learned the bill from Hurricane Sandy will cost the Harbor Department about $31,000.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay for 75 percent of the damage on the East Ferry woodpile pier, according to Town Engineer Mike Gray.
Mello estimated the Harbor Department will owe at most $25,000 for the 25 percent of repairs that FEMA will not cover. He also put the cost of fixing the Fort Getty access road at $5,000.
FEMA will not pay anything for that project, Gray said.
Finally, Mello said, the harbor commissioners will have to fi- nance about $1,000 worth of repairs on the Fort Getty pier. FEMA deemed damage to the pier was not connected to Hurricane Sandy, but rather wear and tear.
During the storm, Gray said, eight bumpers became detached from the pier due to missing or rotted bolts. The Public Works Department plans to install new bolts and reattach the bumpers, he said.
Commissioner Ed McGuirl said the panel should maintain the Fort Getty pier, and he implied because the pier is located in environmentally sensitive Type I waters, the state’s coastal council probably would not allow it to be replaced. The commissioners agreed to budget $15,000 for an assessment at Fort Getty. An upcoming pier maintenance project is expected to cost $100,000, de Angeli indicated.
Meanwhile, the commissioners also agreed to ask Harbormaster Sam Paterson to dive under the pier and inspect the structure. Paterson inspected the Fort Getty and West Ferry outhauls last year and only charged $1,600.
Gray said he didn’t know if the Fort Getty pier’s “underside” was in good shape or not. “We should understand the condition,” he said, “and at least have a baseline.”
Gray said FEMA readily accepted his estimates about repairs to the East Ferry woodpile pier because the town had done repair work two years ago, and he could document the pier’s condition before Hurricane Sandy struck.