Preliminary Notes on Town’s Response to FAIR Winds Freedom on Information Act Request.
2/26/2008 2:43 PM
Nothing in the written records provided by the Town of Mt. Pleasant indicates the pier at Waterfront park is an unsafe or inappropriate place for a sailing center. The wrong kind of rebar was allegedly used in parts of the pier and may result in a less durable structure due to corrosion. Materials still being distributed to the public are misleading. Conclusions in these notes should be regarded as preliminary pending review of the copies received.
Image, Left, Budget showing cost estimates for pier including $30,000.00 for the floating dock at the pier. Click on image for full sized version.
Two and a half hours was spent reviewing the initial materials produced responsive to our Freedom of Information Act request to the Town send February 15, 2007. The Town Attorney’s office was very cordial in its response and a large amount of material was presented for review. As anticipated much of this related to the engineering details of the pier and plans for other parts of the park. The materials produced appeared to cover a large part of the activity by Town Government regarding the park since 2004, however our request only went back to materials dating from February 15, 2005. The Town Administrator’s office has not produced materials to date, claiming the cost of research would exceed the One Hundred Dollars Authorized.
About five hundred pages of material was reviewed, about half of that redundant. This is typical of government records where different departments and offices often have copies of the same material.
Copies of some of the material have been requested. Organizing this material for electronic presentation online after copies are received will take several days. Critical documents were photographed today with a digital camera.
We learned some valuable things.
Nothing in the materials reviewed indicated that the town had received or developed any written documents showing that the Pier at Waterfront Memorial Park was a dangerous or inappropriate place for boating and sailing activities. Applications for permits made to the Army Corps of Engineers and Dept. of the Interior specifically mentioned boating access from the pier and such use was approved as part of the permits issued. Page from permit approving pier for "boating access" and Page covering interference with navigation issues.
Nothing reviewed showed that any testing, measurements or technical examinations which would support the allegations made by John Cameron that the current at the pier was too fast for a current sailing center. No written statement from him or any other person on this issue was in the materials provided.
Some members of council voice occasional concerns about fishing activities not being compatible with boating uses and using the floating dock for fishing activities is considered. The fishing activities appear to be planned to take place within 50 feet of the pier and the submerged concrete rubble that is supposed to compose an artificial reef is submerged deep enough to avoid any conflict with sailing operations or small power boat operation.
On August 9, 2006 plans for the pier apparently included facilities to keep 10 sailboats on the dock.
Remley’s point was apparently ruled out as a location for sailing activities at a council meeting on September 6, 2006 on the grounds parking at that location would be inadequate and the property was owned by the County.
The Sailing dock was listed as a park facility in phase 1. Some drawings and records show an “L” shaped floating dock planned for the pier of 160 feet in length, positioned on the pier’s North side shoreward of the platform at the end of the pier. This floating dock does not appear to have been included in the bid documents issued, but that needs to be confirmed by closer review. In November 2004, the cost of this floating dock was budgeted at about 30 thousand dollars. See Nov. 2004 cost estimates.
The town continues to display maps and plans for the park showing a “sailing dock” at the pier, including the large scale color plan still on display in the lobby of Town Hall. This is misleading and is disturbing because communications to FAIR Winds show many town residents still believe a sailing center is part of plans for the park, an impression these misleading, but widely circulated plans reinforce.
At some point the wrong type of reinforcing rod was used some of the concrete castings for the pier supports. The type used will corrode at a faster rate than the type which should have been used. This error has an alleged value of $30,940, but responsibility for the error was disputed. There is extensive information about this issue, but its ultimate resolution could not be determined from the material reviewed. Sealing the concrete was proposed as a partial solution, but corrosion of the rods in caused in part by the chemistry of the concrete itself. It appears the pier is believed to be strong enough to use, but there are questions about how durable it will be and how much maintenance will be required. Records about this issue weren’t complete, but over the short term it shouldn’t be relevant to operating a sailing center at the pier. See email on this issue.
Most of the public input about the value of sailing to the community and the utility of using the park for this purpose did not survive into the final reports and plan documents. Public input was funneled into various categories and sailing activities were not specifically solicited. Kayaking was and did get some response. Since sailing wasn’t specifically included, it got lost. The public input received was selectively filtered.
The pier is variously described as an observation pier, fishing pier and feature. Statements about public access to the water are vague, but appear throughout the planning process. The issue of sailing is usually deferred. This is typical of a lot of issues regarding the park and council’s role in planning it. Issues get dropped, lost and reappear. Staff apparently doesn’t follow up on council’s input and council doesn’t hold staff to doing so. Major features of the park are discussed, but real decisions aren’t made.
Discussion of sailing activities at the pier takes place for most of this period at committee meetings and council meetings. It will be necessary to organize this material and index it by council member to determine which members of council actually supported the idea. This will be done when copies are received.
Councilman Santos does appear to have supported sailing at the pier prior to December 2007, however he didn’t communicate to the public that the issue was being sidelined and that specific commitments weren’t being made, even after it appeared the plans weren’t advancing appropriately. This lulled the sailing community into a false sense of security about plans for the park. It is clear that failure to build and sustain a strong constituency for a sailing center at the pier was a critical mistake encouraged by the statements of Santos. Several members of council have been almost completely silent on the issue.
Nothing about how the sailing dock would operate, what its cost would be or what personnel and equipment would be needed was included in the materials produced. If the Recreation Department was expected to provide sailing activities, there is no indication work on that was ever started. On at least one occasion, there is an indication it was believed this was an appropriate project for County Government.
Interestingly, the plans and proposal by Charleston Community Sailing for a sailing center at the pier are not included in the materials produced and presumably weren’t even received or preserved by the town. No investigations of municipal sailing centers elsewhere appear to have been made.
Once copies are received, we’ll organize them, post them to the web and provide a coordinated analysis, including a member by member analysis of how Town council has responded to this issue. We’ll extend the opportunity to the town to return a response and make that available as well. Full information should produce a complete picture.
We’ll place information on our www.wjhamilton.com/fairwinds/ website as it becomes available.
Return to the man FAIR Winds page