State inspects transformer blocks at Vineyard Haven terminal

A concrete transformer base at the Steamship Authority's Vineyard Haven terminal that was hit by a truck. It has been secured with chain by the Steamship Authority. Eversource owns the transformer, one of two, but not the base. — Rich Saltzberg

Updated August 27

A state building inspector examined the decaying transformer blocks at the Steamship Authority’s Vineyard Haven terminal Friday and determined that the temporary solution in place (chains) will suffice until a structural engineer can perform an inspection, an official from the state building inspector’s office recently told The Times. The official said the office believes an engineering examination is scheduled for August 31, if not before then. The Steamship Authority will be responsible for any fixes the engineer determines necessary, the official said, and should those fixes require a building permit, the office will monitor the project for code compliance and inspect work as it progresses.

Steamship Authority spokesman Sean Driscoll confirmed a structural engineer is slated to examine the blocks by the end of the month, and will assist in drafting repair plans. Driscoll said he expects the work to be conducted in the fall.

Asked why the Steamship Authority didn’t fix the blocks when Robert B. Our Co., a marine contractor, was onsite repairing the nearby bulkhead, Driscoll was at a loss.

In a separate follow-up email, he wrote, “State procurement laws prohibit us from adding additional work to an already approved contract, so Robert B. Our couldn’t have fixed the concrete block while it was doing the seawall work because it was not part of the original contract or caused by work covered under the contract.”

However, that contractor, Our, undertook three change orders totaling $45,237. “A fourth change order has been submitted for $142,602 for various additional work outside the original contracts,” Driscoll wrote. “Because of the amount, the authority board will need to review the change order and vote to approve or deny it; the matter will be on the board’s agenda for the August 28 meeting in New Bedford.”

Driscoll later clarified through email the six-figure sum was for materials. “The $142,602 change order coming before the board next week is for additional quantities of materials that were required outside of the additional contract,” he wrote, “not additional work as I originally said.”

Updated to clarify information originally supplied by the Steamship Authority.



  1. Just to make sure all the bases are covered here I recommend a federal inspector be brought in to verify the quality of lower level inspections. Since this is so close to the water we should also consult the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in case this is an Area of Critical Planning Concern. If there is any question about that, a study should be commissioned. And BTW, was the guilty driver checked out for possible racist or political motives?

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