NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

May 13, 2013

Expansion plans under way for harbormaster's office

Newburyport City Notebook
Dyke Hendrickson

---- — Members of the Harbor Commission are moving forward on plans to double the size of the harbormaster’s center on the east end of the boardwalk.

To the uninitiated, there would appear to be an endless number of municipal boards that have an

oar in the water when it comes to development along the river.

In addition to the Harbor Commission, there are the Waterfront Trust, the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, the Historical Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals, the Planning Board and the Planning and Development Committee of the City Council.

That said, the Harbor Commission in the past few years has deployed a pro-active posture relating to life along the boardwalk, which is its mission to supervise and enhance.

Members produced a remarkable amount of historical research and attending paperwork in enabling the city to qualify as a Coast Guard City.

Also, the volunteer board did much of the planning for the subsequent ceremony, a boffo event, that took place with handsome Coast Guard ships glistening in port and a sleek service helicopter passing overhead.

Now the commission is taking procedural steps to increase the size and range of facilities in the area that houses the harbormaster’s office.

Yes, the harbormaster himself, Paul Hogg, needs more space — and certainly bathroom facilities in his office.

But the commission is really pushing for bathrooms and showers for travelers in the hundreds of boats that pull up along the docks each boating season.

The number of tourists who come to the city by boat each summer has increased markedly. Those who know the cruising industry say that Newburyport is lagging in what the public central waterfront offers those who need to freshen up (and start shopping) after arriving.

(An aside: Your Scribe would offer Rockport, Maine, and Rockland, Maine, as waterfront communities that offer excellent facilities for boaters, including showers. Also, Rockport, Mass., has an extensive

“restroom” center on its waterfront that is convenient for both boaters and pedestrians.)

The Waterfront Commission last week voted to pursue state grants that are reportedly available for such expansion.

Also, the commission has received tentative responses from several architects that suggest what an expanded facility could look like.

Chairman Brad Duffin said that possible expansion plans will be reviewed and will be discussed with the mayor and city officials in coming months. Commission members are also touching base with the board of the Custom House Maritime Museum, whose property abuts that of the harbormaster.

The commission has talked of doubling the size of the structure, which is now about 15 feet by 30 feet. It is unclear whether the building will have a second tier, which was once mentioned.

Any plans the commission finalizes must be reconciled with what the NRA decides to do with its 4.2 riverside acres nearby. But for now, the Waterfront Commission is steaming ahead at its own ambitious course.

Members of the commission include Duffin, Justin Dutcher, Andrew Casson, Paul Dahn, Robert Dow, Steven Hines, James Knapp, Daniel May and Paul Rooney Jr.

On a related manner, the commission last week voted to approve an expenditure of $25,000 from its retained earnings account to go toward a master plan for refurbishing the boardwalk and pilings.

The Waterfront Trust is also contributing $25,000 to this city-supervised project, so it appears that municipal boards have come together to work toward a common goal.

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The following meetings are scheduled this week and are open to the public:

Tonight

Community Preservation Committee, 7 p.m., police conference room, 4 Green St.

License and Permits Committee, 7 p.m., City Hall.

City Council, 7:30 p.m., City Hall chambers.

Tuesday

Zoning Board of Appeals, 7 p.m., City Hall.

Wednesday

Planning Board, 7 p.m., City Hall.

River Valley Charter School., 7 p.m., 2 Perry Way.

Thursday

Council on Aging, 9:30 a.m., Salvation Army, 40 Water St.

School Building Committee, 6:30 p.m., City Hall auditorium.

Parks Commission, 7 p.m., City Hall.

Board of Health, 7 p.m., City Hall.

Historical Commission, 7:30 p.m., City Council chambers.

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Dyke Hendrickson covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached at 978-462-6666, ext. 3226 or at dhendrickson@newburyportnews.com.