Heidi Zemach for SCN –
At Monday night’s meeting the Seward City Council unanimously approved two resolutions concerning multi-million dollar projects that will help improve and modernize Seward’s harbor infrastructure.
One will replace the last four ageing floats in the Seward Boat Harbor. The four floats to be replaced are B, C, S, and possibly A-floats, all located along the harbor’s southwest side. The project also will replace G-float’s main walkway. The city has secured $2.6 million in grant funding from the Alaska Department of Transportation, and the remaining $2.8 million in local matching funds will likely come from the Seward Harbor’s Maintenance Repair and Replacement or “MRRF” Fund, and from the City’s Capital Replacement Fund, said Seward Harbormaster Norm Regis. The arrangement would enable the harbor department to cover the local portion without raising harbor rates.
The dock-replacement project has already gone out to bid, and the city has tentatively selected Turnagain Marine Construction, of Anchorage, as the low responsive bidder. The contract will be finalized at the council’s August 24th Meeting. The state grant allows a contractor 18 months to complete the project. But Turnagain Marine has told city officials workers would be able to begin the project late this winter, and would be able to finish the work by mid-April, 2016. They will start working from the D float, and will move from one float to the next replacing each one, including its pilings. They will probably leave the resurfacing of G-float until after the popular annual Polar Bear Jump-Off event, Regis said.
“At the last budget session we were told the grants would go away, so we’re really glad,” said Mayor Jean Bardarson. She said the state funding saves residents $2.6 million dollars, and will finally complete the boat harbor. The harbor infrastructure was built soon after the 1964 earthquake and Tsunami destroyed Seward’s original boat harbor. The harbor department has been slowly replacing its floats, ramps, and fish-cleaning stations over the past 22 years. D-float was the last one replaced.
Regis credited his predecessor Mack Funk with “working really hard” to obtain the state grant. Funk’s application won the Seward Small Boat Harbor project much valued Tier-I status, beating out fierce competition for limited state dollars for harbor projects across Alaska. The top tier status assured that the money would directed first to the Seward harbor project, Regis said. It was also the first time that Seward harbor has been able to make use of the Tier I status.
“It’s another very exciting project,” agreed Councilwoman Marianna Keil.
The most costly and ambitious development project approved Monday, however, is the creation of a protective breakwater at Seward Marine Industrial Center, SMIC, a largely underdeveloped area of city land across the bay, enabling the SMIC dock’s safe use by larger-size vessels, and more vessels—including increasing number of vessels transiting the Arctic Ocean, involved in research, drilling, fishing, and other activities.
Council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the city to contract with Hamilton Construction LLC, of Anchorage, the low bidder, for the $15 million project to accomplish Phase I of the planned harbor improvements at SMIC, with an extra $1.5 million contingency fee set aside to cover unforeseen additional costs. The state funding would go first to dredge the entrance to the SMIC Basin, and then to constructing the new SMIC breakwater.
The dredging will begin in October. Meanwhile, the company will begin stockpiling rocks at the city’s rock quarry. The firm will ship in rocks from Kodiak Island from a project it has completed there. The remainder of rocks used will be local rocks that are blasted and sorted into the various size and quality classifications needed.
Six bids were received for the project, but Hamilton Construction was determined to be the lowest, most qualified and responsive bidder. Assistant City Manager Ron Long attributed that to Hamilton having already processed much of the necessary rock. “The rock is a big part of the project, and a big part of the rock is already produced and just looking for a home,” he said. The firm also hopes to be able to leave some stockpiled rock in Seward for use in flood emergencies or future projects.
The council also passed a related resolution Monday recommending that the Kenai Peninsula Borough approve a new plat for a shallow tidal area north of SMIC that would protect a 10-acre parcel of tideland area on the east side of Resurrection Bay, in exchange for the area to be dredged. The 10 acres would be combined with a second 49-acre tract. The Corp of Engineers requires the mitigation as terms of its dredging permit. The action would permanently protect those tidelands from dredging, mining, or other forms of development. Small vessels could still access the area for fishing.
Council also recommended that the borough approve a planned replat of land near the Forest Acres Levee, within the Resource Management Zoning District. The replat would create seven parcels, vacate undeveloped rights-of-way and utility easements, while dedicating new ones. The parcels, that could then be developed for housing or other uses are north and south of Dieckgraeff Road, a dirt road that serves as a flood-control levee, leading to the Seward Waste Transfer Facility.
Council also approved the purchase two new vehicles to replace aging city motor pool vehicles from Quality Equipment Sales & Service. One is a $9,000 lift bed with a hoist, and the other is a $25,000 utility box with a crane. Several council members, led by Dave Squires, complained about discussed the difficulty of comparing the various different company offers, likening them to comparing apples and oranges. That’s because certain companies offered package deals on vehicles that included additional equipment that would ultimately be needed, while other companies did not.
Council also authorized the Seward Volunteer Fire Department, and others, to burn the Army Rec Camp’s “Fish House” building at its current site at 2109 Dimond Boulevard during live fire training exercises at the 2015 Alaska Fire Conference in late September. Most of the other buildings have been taken down or taken away.
Council approved the city manager’s request to use $125,000 from local cruise ship head taxes to create new directional signs, crosswalks, barriers, and make other improvements to Port Avenue to assure visitor safety. The idea is to direct pedestrian traffic from the Alaska Railway Terminal along the paved northern portion of road along Port Avenue, and to steer them away from the unpaved side of the road, including the rear of Icicle Seafood Plant, while also letting them know how to get themselves safely to their cruise ship, the small boat harbor, and downtown Seward attractions. City Manager Jim Hunt also proposes to extend a portion of boardwalk area along the harbor waterfront. Council members also urged Hunt to also build larger signs marking the Seward Shuttle bus locations, as they’re too small for many to notice.
City officials announced with sadness that engineer Rick Wise, the city’s project manager for the past 11 months, has accepted another, more lucrative position, and will return to the National Park Service. He has overseen many Seward projects since arriving in September to fill that new city position. It seems likely that administrators will advocate that the position again be filled.