City to look into upgrading Mispillion River bulkhead

Terry RogersGovernment, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

This section of land could become a pocket park if an agreement is reached between the owners and the city regarding a bulkhead located in the Mispillion River (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

When he and a group of investors purchased the former Carlisle Fire Company on Church Street, Dan Bond explained that there was an intention to give the city a strip of a land along the Mispillion River in order to make the Riverwalk contiguous in that area. At the time, Bond was very open about the fact that a concrete bulkhead would need to be repaired or replaced should the city take over the small strip of land. Brad Dennehy, Director of Milford Parks and Recreation, explained at a council meeting that the city had been awarded a $125,000 grant, half of which could be used toward the bulkhead project while the other half was earmarked for a park on South Rehoboth Boulevard.

“Earlier this year, Dan Bond purchased this property. They want to move forward with rehabbing the building. They want to give the city an easement behind the building, which would then mean we would have connectivity on our Riverwalk. That’s the last remaining piece which is not contiguous. So, there’s a number of things that need to occur there,” Dennehy said. “One, we would have to enter into agreement with the property owner. But two, we effectively then would be responsible for the rebuilding of the bulkhead. The bulkhead is the concrete wall, for lack of a better term, which is in the river, which has shown a lot of decay. It is deteriorated to the point where it needs to be repaired. We’re not sure exactly when that was installed, but the building dates back to the early 1930s. So we’re assuming that the wall went into the river prior to the firehouse getting built.”

Dennehy explained that he met with the Army Corps of Engineers several times and that there was no record stating that the city owned the bulkhead and that it appeared it was owned by the property owner. Dennehy met with an experienced contractor who performed repair and renovation of several sections of the Riverwalk bulkheading who suggested driving sheet piling in front of the wall and pouring a concrete pad on top. Dennehy confirmed that Bond was interested in putting a small pocket park along the Riverwalk next to the building.

“We need to get a design professional down here who’s got a lot of skill in marine construction and shoring up stuff. So, it’d be my recommendation to take the ORPT funds and put that towards a design professional. And then we can figure out really what’s involved in that,” Dennehy said. “I don’t want to speak out of turn, Mr. Rutt, but I don’t know if we did that, does that leave the city on the hook contractually wise or not? I don’t know. I would think in a layman’s term that if we get a report from an engineer, and it’s cost prohibitive, city can say we don’t want to move forward with the easement.”

City Solicitor David Rutt asked if there was a pending agreement with Bond and Dennehy stated there was not, but he did not think the city could qualify for funding unless there was an agreement.

“In that agreement, you can put a contingency that says that the city will either accept the easement or ownership of the property or however you want to term it subject to this report,” Rutt said. “They determine exactly what has to be done and could even like maybe a cost cap on the cost in excess of $250,000. Let’s just throw a number out there. But it depends on what the agreement is. You can always put terms into a contract like that.”

Dennehy felt that would be the best option to move forward with the project. Councilman Jason James expressed that he was very supportive of the project as it did provide connectivity for the Riverwalk, but wondered if there may be other funds available to offset the cost of repairing the bulkhead.

“I think that there’s always opportunities, whether that could be with the bond bill or this ORPT funding. I submitted a bond bill application but it didn’t get funded. But we did get other funding for other city projects,” Dennehy said. “I think in my experience, if we have actual design of a project, and we know one, what we’re trying to do with it and two, we’ve got a real cost estimate with that. I think we’re a lot more likely to get funding, whether it’s from a legislator or state level. But I think when we have a concept, it’s one thing but if we’ve actually got an agreement with the design professional and we’ve got a set of, for lack of a term, blueprints that I think helps us so I don’t think this would be an easy fix. But I think if we had a set of prints and a cost estimate, then I think we’d been a lot better position to petition for more funds.”

Councilman Andy Fulton asked if the Army Corps of Engineers had to be involved in the project and Dennehy explained that the city would need a permit from them. In the three meetings with the Corps, Dennehy felt there would be no objection from them in completing this project.

“It’s hard to even fathom that the Army Corps would be involved in something because it’s not navigable waterways up there. There are bridges on either end of the property, but there’s a process to go through that. But I don’t see any issues,” Dennehy said. “We’re not trying to put a new dock on the river. We’re not trying to impede any type of waterway. It’s just basically repair and they have articulated to me that they have no desire to be involved in funding, that they’re more than happy to have someone else take on that project and not have the firehouse to fall into it.”

Rutt explained that the Army Corps of Engineers has jurisdiction over freshwater wetlands which is why they would need to be involved. Councilman Dan Marabello confirmed that this would just be an easement for the city to access the property.

“Correct. He will retain ownership because I think I heard this, the Rotary mentioned ownership on this unless I heard wrong, but depends on what he would agree,” Dennehy said. “But at this juncture is just a nice that’s how the resolution is written.”

Mayor Archie Campbell stated that he believed Bond wanted the city to enter into a partnership, but he was confused as to who would control the property.

“A lot of easements probably date back to the Magna Carta, if not before, and you have all kinds of easements. And you can have, if they grant you an easement, they maintain ownership, but they can as part of that, you would assume complete control,” Rutt said. “Access, subject to their right of access meters, there’s all kinds of things that can go into it. If the city wants to own it, we could ask for that. So, it would be a type of easement and it would be subject to this agreement and just forming what the rights and obligations are between the respective parties and liabilities.”

Rutt suggested making the language broad when the ordinance was approved, subject to entering into an agreement to be ratified depending on the cost. He suggested not putting a review on it as if the cost came in at $260,000 and council set a limit of $260,000, council may choose to spend the extra $10,000.

Council approved the resolution to look into the cost of renovating and repairing the bulkhead along the Mispillion River next to the old firehouse unanimously.







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