NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

May 24, 2013

NRA to support boardwalk rebuilding

BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
STAFF WRITER

---- — NEWBURYPORT — The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority has voted to commit $25,000 to the restoration of the downtown waterfront boardwalk bulkhead.

In recent weeks, the Waterfront Trust and the Harbor Commission have both voted to commit $25,000 to the project.

A study commissioned by city officials has shown that segments of the massive steel infrastructure that supports the 1,300-foot boardwalk need renovations. The boardwalk sits atop huge steel “coffers” sunk into the ground that are connected together by thick steel plates.

Municipal leaders say a state grant of about $1.9 million has been obtained for the restorative project.

Municipal leaders say that costs have gone up since a state grant was received several years ago, and only about half of the necessary improvements can be made with current commitments.

So officials have requested “contributions” from waterfront organizations.

According to Geordie Vining, senior project manager, boardwalk construction projects took place in 1977 and 1987, and “now work has to be done.”

“The first phase of what we have to do can begun with funds we have,” said Vining, who made a presentation at the NRA’s month meeting on Wednesday.

“We will be seeking more grants in the future.”

He expressed satisfaction that the three boards with waterfront ties have all made a commitment, which he indicated would strengthen the city’s application when he seeks additional grants. Construction could begin in October.

The NRA currently has about $190,000 in its bank accounts.

Also, the NRA voted to convey to the Waterfront Trust the submerged lands and seawall to be built on the waterside of the existing bulkhead when constructed from Riverside Park on the west side to Custom House Way on the east side.

This property transfer will preserve the Waterfront Trust’s direct connections to the tidewaters of the river. The trustees obtain about one third of their annual revenues from public excursion boat leases to four boat operators, according to city officials.

In a separate matter, Elizabeth Heath, who heads the Committee for an Open Waterfront, made a formal request to see the NRA’s financial statements going back to his inception in 1961.

Heath said it was a request under the Freedom of Information Act, and the motive for the request was “due diligence.”

The NRA board and its lawyer, Carol Powers, said they will make an effort to produce the records.