Chilmark moves to next part of post-blaze wharf rebuild

— File photo by Tim Johnson

Chilmark selectmen on Tuesday approved the final plans for the next phase of the project to rebuild the town dock that was destroyed in the Menemsha fire of July 2010.

The town has received $629,026 from the Massachusetts Seaport Advisory Council to conduct the next phase of repairs to the town waterfront that was devastated by fire that swept through Menemsha two summers ago.

The plans approved by selectmen were recommended by the town harbor advisory committee (HAC) and call for the construction of a new 230-foot transient yacht dock, a new 50-foot fuel dock near the Menemsha Texaco and a 185-foot temporary tie-up dock.

The HAC considered a number of factors when recommending the plans, including the functional needs for each dock, comparative cost estimates, and the needs of commercial fishermen and pedestrians.

Andy Goldman, chairman of the HAC, said his committee struggled the most with whether to recommend a fixed wooden pier or a concrete floating dock for the new transient dock.

Fixed wooden piers are generally thought to be more aesthetically pleasing, while the floating concrete dock system is generally thought to be safer for boaters and easier to maintain, he said.

In the end, the HAC recommended a combination of a small 8-foot wide fixed pier at Dutcher Dock approximately eight inches higher than the existing transient dock level with a side ramp with upper and lower platforms.

Those platforms would then transition from the new fixed dock section to a system of eight-foot-wide concrete floating docks. The concrete float docks will have concrete-filled, steel piles for holding the docks in place.

The new transient dock will have water and electric service for each slip.

Marshall Carroll, owner of the Menemsha Texaco, argued in favor of a fixed wooden pier for the new transient dock. “If you were to walk down that dock now the most important thing to me is that railing,” he said. “So many people stop and lean against the railing to watch the sunset.

“That dock has weathered so much. Why keep going around with something that might not work? Then you can’t go back and change it if it doesn’t work. Right now it’s 100 to 1 people walking, compared to people tying up.”

Mr. Carroll argued that the series of fixed piers was unique and added to the charm of Menemsha Harbor. “If it aint broke, don’t fix it,” he said.

But Jonathon Mayhew, chairman of the selectman and also a commercial fisherman, said the fixed piers at the transient dock were not the best system. “It’s been broken for a long time now, Marshall,” he said.

Mr. Goldman said the HAC agreed that a floating dock is safer and more convenient for transient boaters to leave and board their boats. “We spent a great deal of time on the transient dock,” he said.

“I think everyone agreed that wooden docks are nicer than floating piers,” he continued. “And if it were only an aesthetic issue, everyone would like to see a wooden dock. But maintenance and ease of use were more important than aesthetics.”

By comparison, the HAC recommended replacing the nine- by 44-foot fuel dock with a new fixed wooden pier. The deck level will be eight inches higher than the existing fuel dock.

The angle, width and length of the new fixed fuel dock will match the current fuel dock dimensions and a small wooden ramp will connect the new, higher fuel dock with the bulkhead.

Mr. Goldman said the additional eight inches of deck height should keep it dry in extreme moon tides. Menemsha Texaco will be responsible for designing and installing all fuel dispensing apparatus.

The plans also call for the repair and upgrade the current charter float docks and ramp with a more stable system and a new fixed wooden temporary tie-up dock on the channel.

Mr. Goldman framed the temporary tie-up dock as an “add-on” to the project, and the length of this new dock will be determined by the amount of funds available after all of the Menemsha Basin dock work is funded. If the cost of other construction goes over budget, the plans for the temporary tie-up dock would likely be the first to be cut, he said.

The HAC has estimated that the transient dock would cost $229,120, the fuel dock would cost $53,200, and the repairs to the charter docks $15,050. The 60 feet of temporary tie-up dock would cost $118,800.

The fixed costs for the project, including demolition and dredging, are estimated at $231,000. The HAC estimated the grand total would come to $647,170, just under $20,000 more than the grant from the Seaport Advisory Council.

Selectman Warren Doty said he did want the town to incur any additional expenses for the next phase of the repairs to the town docks. “My position is we can do this for a price within the $629,000 [already received by the town],” and if we can’t do it for that amount we will leave certain parts off,” he said.

Since the project will be fully funded by money already received by the Seaport Advisory Council, only the design of the project will need to be approved by voters.

Selectmen agreed to hold a special town meeting, most likely in August, for voters to decide on the plans, but they did not set a date. If the plans are approved the construction would likely begin in October or early November at the latest.

In other news, selectmen interviewed two candidates, Robert Lionette and Melissa Moore, to fill out the remainder of the term Perry Ambulos on the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD).

Ms. Moore has four children in the Martha’s Vineyard public school system, one a freshman at the regional high school and three others at the West Tisbury School.

Mr. Lionette is a well-known Island chef with a son at the Chilmark School.

Both candidates said they were strong supporters of the School Choice program, which allows parents to send their children to schools other than the one in the town where they live.

Both Mr. Lionette and Ms. Moore said they are opposed to any efforts to close down the Chilmark School.

Ms. Moore said she is involved with the Parent Teacher Organization and she also served on the interview committee for a special education director position and the principal at the regional high school. “I have four children in Island schools and I am very much invested in their education,” she said. “It is the most important thing they are doing right now. We have very high expectations for them, and I have high expectations for our schools.”

Mr. Lionette said he would work to implement a healthier food program in the schools, one that used locally grown ingredients but at affordable rates. “Upgrading the quality of the food in our school is a priority at present, although I am quite concerned about the costs,” he said. “I am concerned about the region’s ability to find the type of lunch that families are expecting with the cost structure that is available: hence my interest to really get involved and flush out, exactly, what those costs are.”

Selectmen said they would like more time to consider the candidates and would likely appoint one of them at their next meeting. “We are lucky to have two strong candidates,” Mr. Mayhew said.

Selectmen also approved a memorandum of understanding between the town of Chilmark, Friends of Chilmark Preschool, and the UIRSD to build a new bathroom for the preschool program at the Chilmark Elementary School.

The project will be paid for through a $2,500 pledge from the Chilmark Town Affairs Council, a contribution of $14,000 from the Friends of the Chilmark Preschool and $25,000 already appropriated by voters at town meeting.

The new bathroom will benefit the preschool program by reducing staffing and other inconvenience to escort students to remote bathrooms in the building and also be used by the Town Affairs Council during their summer preschool operations.

Mr. Doty said plans for the bathroom have gone down a long and sometimes bumpy road. At one point the town threw out bids for the project after all of them came in too high. “It is certainly a project we want to make happen and we have struggled with it. It’s been a long time birthing this,” he said.

In related business, selectmen agreed to award the bid for the preschool bathrooms to Knight Home Builders of Chilmark. The company’s bid came in at just under $38,000, but it was not the lowest bid.

The lowest bid cane from LaLiberty Construction at $36,891, although town administrator Tim Carroll recommended that selectmen go with Knight Home Builders instead.

Mr. Carroll said during the background and reference check he discovered LaLiberty construction was mostly limited to masonry work and simpler projects than the preschool bathrooms.

Mr. Carroll said he was also he was less than excited about some of their references. He said he checked with town counsel and was told the town was within their rights to reject the lowest bidder and instead choose Knight Home Builders.

“That doesn’t mean there won’t be a bid process. But we could move forward with the project and have it down by the time any court schedule in announced,” he said.

“If we aren’t getting great references and we have a local guy who in nominally more with great references and is someone we can hold accountable for the work I would like to be able to choose the local,” selectman Bill Rossi said.