Kevin Murphy: There could be a maritime center by 2018

Jul 20, 2016

After Town Meeting voters denied the $765,000-purchase of 4 Water Street for a maritime center, the Select Board has rushed to find an alternative for the $1 million grant allotted for the project.

The Water Street Landing Rehabilitation Committee has since been on the job—both in official and unofficial capacities—to repurpose the monies. They met with the Select Board on July 19, along with CLE Engineering's Susan Nilson, for an update.

"The goal here for me today was to understand what those sketch plans may consist of," said Nilson.

To still receive the $1 million grant from the Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council, the committee must submit a revised version of the grant application by November 1, 2016.

Following the meeting, Dartmouth resident Kevin Murphy—who has worked to develop an alternative to the 4 Water Street location with Patricia Sweriduk and Dr. Arthur Burke—took a walk to the proposed location at the corner of Bridge and Water streets for a closer look.

"You provide all the amenities here, and you clean up what the town already owns," said Murphy, explaining that unlike the first proposal, the weed-lined parking lot and outdoor bathrooms are town owned.

"You'd certainly like to present a nicer image of Dartmouth than coming into this mess," said Murphy, pointing at the rickety ramp leading to a dock that now touches the ocean floor. Silt runoff from the road built up in the legally required two-foot clearance.

"It's illegal because it touches the bottom," said Murphy. "Can you believe the town gets away with that?"

The current structure would be replaced by a 10-by-100-foot floating concrete dock that would run parallel with the Padanaram Bridge. The foot of the dock would be capped with an extension to create either a "T" or "L" shape, which would provide room for larger power boats to dock, said Murphy.

Left of the dock, rock piles would be cleared for a two-story, 20-by-40 foot visitor's center, which would also house the harbormaster and bridge tender, but that structure creates a possible "nonstarter," or an obvious obstruction to starting the project, said Murphy.

"The floor would start half way up the telephone pole [located at the head of the bridge]," or about 19-feet above the water line, if they followed federal and state codes, said Murphy.

"The state building inspector would presumably have the right to give a variance," an allowed deviation from the codes, Murphy explained. If a variance were approved, the house would be built atop pilings, with a four-foot wide walkway surrounding its entirety.

If the town cannot get a variance, the harbormaster's office could potentially be built as a floating pad which would be towed out in the instance of inclement weather, said Murphy.

Adjacent to the parking lot is currently a dirt ramp where boaters launch their dinghies. That would be replaced with a 15-by-65-foot deck area to serve as an esplanade for walking. Right of that, a rollout mat would assist in launching dinghies and small boats.

It'd be like a smaller boat ramp, where you could tow boats down to the water on a hand trailer, said Murphy.

From the end of the deck would be a ADA-compliant ramp leading to the aforementioned floating dock. The ramp could stretch anywhere from 60- to 80-feet, said Murphy. It depends on the incline needed to make it handicap-accessible, he said.

The parking lot would get a makeover too, depending on what's left of the $1.3 million budget, said Murphy. He'd like to see a brick floor and new fence along the six-space lot, and "maybe a nice, big flag pole."

"Best case scenario, it should be permitted by next year," said Murphy, who formerly worked as a construction supervisor on floodplain foundations. "Then it has to go out to bid. Portions of it could start by mid-summer next year."

"Best case scenario, everything could be done summer 2018. It's not rocket science," he said. "It'll probably take longer to permit than to build."

The previous Water Street maritime center proposal also depended on $466,000 in Community Preservation Act funds—which are raised through a 1½ percent property tax surcharge. Committee members are also hoping to keep that money for the revised plan.

"They have enough information now to go to the CPC [Community Preservation Committee]," said Murphy. The application to the CPC is due July 27. "Susan [Nilson] is giving her blessing at this point."