Council decides to pay consultant another $15,000 to seek grants that would supplement Army Corps funds
The Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday doubled up its efforts to get grant money to repair the deteriorating breakwater.
The city agreed to pay an additional $15,000 to Foth Engineering — doubling the funds it has already committed — in hopes of obtaining state grants that will supplement $950,000 allocated by the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the breakwater this summer.
“What is now a $950,000 solution could become a $2 million to $3 million solution,” Mayor Tom Mlada said, noting that while the work that will be done by the Army Corps this summer is only a partial fix for the breakwater.
“This is our window of opportunity. We can’t bank on the fact there’ll be another $950,000 next year and $2 million after that,” he said.
Corps officials are willing to work with the city to maximize the work that can be done and coordinate it, he added.
City Administrator Mark Grams said the $950,000 Army Corps allocation “is almost like seed money” that can be used to match any grants the city gets.
The city can’t afford not to take advantage of this, said Ald. Dave Larson, chairman of the Finance and License Committee.
“It’s opening the door for more grants,” he said. “Now that we have this momentum, we certainly want to continue to move forward.”
Army Corps representatives told the city last week that it doesn’t know how much it can achieve with the $950,000, Mlada said. It seems as if much of the project will be surface work, he said.
The Corps plans to send a structural engineer to Port in the coming weeks to examine the breakwater and check the surface, face and sides to try and determine how much deterioration has occurred since last summer’s inspection, he added.
Even then, they may not have a clear picture of how much work is needed until the project begins this summer, officials said.
“It’s like exploratory surgery, where they go in and look around to find out what’s wrong. They might not know until July, when they take the cap off,” Grams said. “They don’t know what exactly they’ll find.”
The Army Corps said work is expected to begin in late July, Mlada said, which gives the city time to apply for additional funds for the project.
“The challenge is that much of the work will happen during the height of the tourist season,” he said.
Grams said it is feasible that the city could obtain an additional $1 million to $2 million in grant money for the breakwater. That money could be used for such things as armor stone around the breakwater to protect it from erosion.
“I think they (the Army Corps) would like to do armor stone, but I think the breakwater structure itself is the first thing,” Grams said, adding armor stone is expensive.
It’s difficult to determine what grant funds would be used for, he said, because the city doesn’t know exactly what the Army Corps project will entail, he added.
The city’s original $15,000 contract with Foth and SmithGroup JJR includes the preparation of one grant application.
“Now that we know what programs are out there, we need to move ahead,” Grams said.
That’s especially important because Port’s breakwater is a low priority for the Army Corps, which owns the structure, Mlada said, noting the city is no longer a commercial port.
While the original contract with Foth and SmithGroup JJR is being funded with marina funds, the extension approved Tuesday will be financed through the city’s contingency funds.
A portion of the grant funds obtained could be used to replenish the contingency fund, Larson said.
Aldermen also approved an increase in the daily and seasonal launch rates at the marina, to $10 and $95, respectively.
Any funds in excess of the $25,000 in budgeted revenue from each of these fees will be designated for breakwater repairs.
The measure may not bring in much money this year, Grams said.
“With the long winter we’ve been having, fishing is not going to be very good,” he said, and that often determines how many launches occur.
But it is a way to drive home the message to users of the marina that they have a stake in the breakwater issue, and to assure city residents that they are not alone in tackling the issue, Mlada said.