Cost doubles for City Dock fix

Improvements demand $8.8 million, but project should be done in less time

January 07, 2007|By Joe Palazzolo | Joe Palazzolo,Special to The Sun

While the cost of improving City Dock has soared to nearly $9 million, the brunt of the project is expected to be completed in half as much time as originally planned to accommodate Annapolis' tourism calendar, according to city officials.

In the lull between the powerboat show in October and the Maritime Heritage Festival in May 2008 - two of the city's largest tourist draws - two barge crews will work simultaneously, spearing new bulkheads and sheet pilings through the soupy soil on the bay floor in the project's main phase.

The 2008 Maritime Heritage Festival will coincide with the 300th anniversary of the city charter, and officials are anticipating larger crowds and planning additional events commemorating the charter signing. Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said the goal is to have the improvements finished before then, without interrupting the flow of visitors to the fall boat shows.

"In the year of our anniversary celebration, the festival will be even bigger," Moyer said. "It's important that construction on the downtown core be done and that it is looking its finest."

John E.C. Patmore, the director of the city's Public Works Administration, said the main phase of the $8.8 million project could be completed in a six-month span starting this fall, barring unforeseen complications.

In additional to replacing about 1,000 feet of bulkhead with steel, the improvements will include landscaping at Susan B. Campbell Park, a new boardwalk and about 20 new boat slips with new pilings, Patmore said.

Less intrusive construction will begin in April, with the replacement and relocation of the dock's electrical services from King George Street to the Department of Natural Resources on Taylor Avenue.

"I'm very happy that it's all being done on an accelerated basis. We haven't got time to fool around," Patmore said. "We've got to get the whole thing open for the tourist season."

About $66 million in tourism tax revenue flowed into Anne Arundel County in 2005, saving households an average of $335 in taxes, according to an October 2006 study by Choice Communications Systems Inc. of Upper Marlboro.

Tourism employs 28,440 county workers - 12 percent of the county's work force - and generates $641 million in wages, according to data from the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau.

City Dock was last overhauled in 1970, and in the intervening years the city has spent about $500,000 swapping rotting timbers for concrete and steel pilings and broadening the harbor.

But time has worked over the dock's underpinnings.

"The existing bulkheading is pretty deteriorated," Patmore said. "It's about 40 years old and all that soupy material has started to seep into the holes in the boards."

The City Council approved last month an increase in the project's budget, to $8.8 million from about $4 million. A study had found that the top layer of soft, yielding soil - "about the consistency of condensed milk," Patmore said - on the bay floor was much deeper than initially thought.

Crews will have to bore deeper than originally planned to lodge the pilings in firm soil, adding to the labor and materials costs of the project.

"The design had to be changed considerably," Patmore said.

The city is responsible for half of the $8.8 million cost, with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and federal grants supplying the rest. Moyer said the city will issue bonds to cover the cost increase.

"We get a pretty good rate on our bonds, and since we are the visitors capital of the state, it's important that we maintain our visitors status," Moyer said.

City Dock will be the subject of the Historic Preservation Commission's meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the city council chambers. Patmore said that the public works staff will update business owners on the project's progress during a Feb. 1 meeting.

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