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Port stairwell project more complex than originally thought

Port of Coupeville Executive Director Tim McDonald and port commissioners closed the public beach access near Coupeville Wharf earlier this year due to safety concerns. While seeking engineering estimates to fix the stairs, port officials learned the repairs are much more complex and involve the foundation of the port office building. - 2014 File photo
Port of Coupeville Executive Director Tim McDonald and port commissioners closed the public beach access near Coupeville Wharf earlier this year due to safety concerns. While seeking engineering estimates to fix the stairs, port officials learned the repairs are much more complex and involve the foundation of the port office building.
— image credit: 2014 File photo

Efforts to fix the public beach access near Coupeville Wharf will be more complex than Port of Coupeville officials expected.

The stairwell leading to the beach was closed earlier this year due to safety concerns.

“We were focused on the stairwell,” said port Executive Director Tim McDonald. “(But) it’s part of an integrated issue.”

McDonald said he had two engineers comes out to look at the stairwell and give an engineering estimate.

What they found was much more than an unsafe stairwell.

The stairs in question are connected to the foundation of the port office building, McDonald said.

In order to fix one part of the issue, all of the connecting pieces need to be addressed including,  a ramp, foundation and bulkhead.

“It’s very complex,” McDonald said. The port is dealing with a really old building in a challenging environment.

“It definitely was not designed to last 100 years.”

There are also issues of erosion below the foundation of the building, which was built in 1887 using technology not adequate to today’s standards.

Commissioner Marshal Bronson said, as recently as eight years ago, the port office building foundation was stumps.

Last week, McDonald brought an estimate from one of the engineers for $17,500.

Commissioner Mike Diamanti said the board sees the seriousness of the situation, but the port doesn’t have the capacity in the budget for $17,500 in engineering services alone.

The board directed McDonald to seek additional estimates from other engineers to review at the April 9 port meeting.

“We don’t want to hold up the project anymore than necessary,” said commissioner Bill Larsen. “We need to get stairs open as soon as possible.”

McDonald said he is looking to have construction done that is affordable and meets safety standards.

He said he also hopes to fix the issues in such a way that offers a proactive approach so that this doesn’t happen again.

Two organizations within the community,  one being the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, have also come forward and began conversations about fundraising to help repair the wharf.

Director Vicky Chambers came to last week’s port meeting extending an offer to help with fundraising to get the stairwell reopened.

However, at the time, she said she didn’t know how complex the situation was.

“In general I think the community feels the wharf and port buildings are important,” McDonald said.

He said he’d welcome outside funding campaigns for the project.

At this time, the port does not have a cost estimate for the total project.

In the 2014 budget, commissioners allocated $70,000 for construction, repairs and maintenance.

They also prioritized a list of projects.

So far, McDonald said, the first seven items on the list have totaled a little more than $70,000.

The stairwell repairs are listed as No. 8.

McDonald said commissioners will either have to redo its priority list, raise additional funds or tap into an undedicated funds account.

The port is currently sitting on roughly $335,000 in Conservation Futures Funds gained by selling property at Greenbank Farm.

 

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