City to hire engineers to determine how to repair marina infrastructure
Faced with crumbling infrastructure along the north slip parking lot where the proposed Blues Factory would be built, Port Washington aldermen on Tuesday agreed to interview engineering firms to determine the best fix for the problem — a project City Administrator Mark Grams estimated could cost six figures if all the structural supports need to be replaced.
While that is going on, aldermen agreed, they will ask the Port Washington Historical Society to research the slip to see if it can glean construction information that could be helpful to determining a solution.
Aldermen also asked city staff members to look into whether the parking lot should be closed until an engineering firm verifies its condition.
It may be unlikely the sheetwall will fail, aldermen said, but they want to protect the city from any unnecessary liability.
Grams told aldermen that when the city tried to find the structural supports for the sheetwall — the tiebacks that hold the wall in place and the deadmen that anchor the tiebacks — it found tiebacks along the eastern half of the sheetwall and only a few on the west end, and none were anchored with deadmen.
The tiebacks, which were about six feet down, may have been anchored to old railroad ties, Grams said, noting, “We did find some wood splinters in the ground and nothing else.”
Grams said crews noted there is some bowing in the sheetwall on the western end of the north slip.
“Obviously, the question we’ve got is how supported is the sheetwall in its current position,” he said.
Grams recommended the city seek proposals from one of three engineering firms — Cullen Engineering, JJR and Terra Construction and Engineering — to see what needs to be done to ensure the stability of the wall.
Grams estimated the cost of replacing the deadmen at $125,000 to $175,000, noting engineering is likely to be 10% of that total.
Since there is no money in the budget for the work, he said he has talked to the city’s financial consultant about the possibility of adding $200,000 to a June refinancing to cover the cost.
While aldermen initially seemed willing to go along with this plan, Ald. John Sigwart, a former city engineer, suggested the city ask the Historical Society to research the construction of the north slip, a process he said would take about a month.
This, he said, could be used by the engineering firm as it develops proposals for the project. Otherwise, Sigwart said, the firms will do the research and the city will have to pay for it.
“You give more information to your engineer, you’re going to get a better proposal from them,” he said.
Although Grams said the city had researched the history of the slip and sheetwall, looking at plans going back to the 1930s, Sigwart suggested there may be more to find.
Sigwart also recommended the city interview the firms and select the best one for the job rather than picking the firm based on price.
Ald. Doug Biggs questioned this approach, saying, “The only reason I can’t support this is we’re deciding on a person before we know a price. That scares me.”
Sigwart said the city can always reject its top candidate if the cost is too high and then negotiate with the next favored engineering firm.
“This way you’re basing your decision on the quality of the engineers, not the price,” he said.
But Grams noted that the city has worked with each of the firms under consideration before and has had good experience with each of them.
Several aldermen said they are reluctant to delay the engineering work for a Historical Society study.
Mayor Tom Mlada said, “I’m not sure what we would find about the nuts and bolts of the deadmen in terms of our current conditions.”
Biggs concurred, saying a decision needs to be made using an engineering study, not historical plans, but Sigwart said that the results could impact the study.
“If we spend a month doing research and find the sheetwall’s embedded 10 to 12 feet ... it may turn out you don’t even need the deadmen,” he said.
The parking lot overlooking the north slip of the Port Washington Marina, proposed site of the Blues Factory. Photo by Dan Laurence