The Ned Dimes Marina. / Photo by Thane Grauel
The Ned Dimes Marina / Photos by Thane Grauel

By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — Committees from the Representative Town Meeting on Monday endorsed money to replace a broken irrigation system at Coleytown Middle School, and for an analysis of repairs to the Ned Dimes Marina.

The amounts aren’t large — $80,000 for the marina and $104,000 for the irrigation — but they signal more spending to come. More field irrigation systems will need replacement, and the marina study is only to identify what infrastructure will need replacement and prepare permit documents.

The Finance Committee unanimously voted to recommend the full RTM pass the Coleytown appropriation. The Parks and Recreation and Public Works committees had purview over both appropriations and unanimously recommended both.

Parks Superintendent Michael West.
Parks Supt. Michael West

But there were questions first.

Sal Liccione, District 9, asked Parks Supt. Michael West about the condition of irrigation systems at other fields.

“How’s it looking town-wide?” he asked. “When will we be replacing a lot of these?”

“We’re gearing up to do a master plan and I think that sort of thing would be addressed with that project,” West said.

“A lot of our systems are a little bit on the older side,” he continued. “The system at Staples is 15 years old.”

West said in some cases, main lines can still be used and a system might just need new valves. But others might need a major overhaul.

“We don’t want to get hit with a major, big bill each time,” Liccione said. “We should work on getting this stuff done.”

“Part of that master plan will be trying to really put some time and effort into a very detailed 10-year capital plan,” West said.

Finance Committee Chairman Seth Braunstein, District 6, noted that the new Coleytown system had a life expectancy of 10 years.

“How old is the one that’s being replaced?” he asked.

“I would guess that it was a very, very old system,” West said.

Committee members also had questions about the analysis at the marina.

“The gas dock and the decking for the north and main piers at Compo Marina are due for replacement,” Parks and Rec Senior Foreman Michael Guinta said. “The gas dock is over 30 years and has exceeded its useful life. It actually predates the floating docks that are at the marina. It was originally used to service the marina when it was a mooring field.”

Parks Senior Foreman Michael Guinta.
Parks Senior Foreman Michael Guinta

The gas dock has exceeded its expected use of 25 to 30 years. He said it’s now 34 or 35.

“The decking for the north and main piers are coming up on 27 years old and also have exceeded their useful life,” 20 years, Guinta said.

“We’ve definitely gotten our money’s worth out of that decking,” he said.

He said several contractors suggested that before the decking is replaced, a study be done to evaluate the structural integrity of the piers and pilings.

Public Works Director Peter Ratkiewich said electrical panels and other components also need to be replaced.

“These panels are in pretty rough shape …,” he said. “They’ve deteriorated due to salt water.”

“Those are a pretty major item down the line, but we want to have them designed,” he said the analysis.

Ratkiewich mentioned that when the docks were built, the electrical system was designed for higher kilowatts than were ever utilized, and they’d be looking at reducing that.

He detailed what the town would get for the $80,000 study, including state and federal permits, permit application follow-ups.

“They’ll then create construction documents based on their findings,” he said, looking at all the structures.

“Then they’ll take this project through the bid phase, and that point we’ll come back to you with another appropriation request for the actual projects,” Ratkiewich said.

Parks and Rec Director Jennifer Fava listed the possible costs in a memo, including $100,000 for the fuel dock, $170,000 to replace the two piers, and $300,000 for the electrical work.

The Ned Dimes Marina. / Photo by Thane Grauel
The Ned Dimes Marina

Fava noted that the marina takes in more money than is spent on it, and that the goal is to have boaters, rather than the taxpayers at large, fund the improvements.

Chris Tait, chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, District 1, pointed out that the department had to turn any surplus of revenue from the marina back to the town’s general fund, so it couldn’t hold onto the money to fund such work in the future.

The expenditures, which were approved by the Board of Finance on Feb. 7, next go before the full RTM, the town’s ultimate funding body.

Thane Grauel grew up in Westport and has been a journalist in Fairfield County and beyond for 36 years. Reach him at editor@westportjournal.com. Learn more about us here.