This past September, the Town held a meeting to review a proposed new Marine Facility to be located at Island Wharf. Based on the discussion and comments received at that meeting, the design of the proposed facility has been revised. Attached are “Before and After” drawings showing the original design from September 2020 and the updated design from April 2021.
Below is a narrative regarding the design of the proposed new Marine Facility.
Current Facility – In 1982, the Town of Marion undertook a study of its responsibilities for oversight of Marion’s Waterways. As a result, the Department of Marine Resources was created and became operational on May 18, 1983. A full-time director was appointed to serve as both harbormaster and shellfish officer and tasked with maintaining an orderly and secure harbor, control of shellfishing, and oversight of the roughly 880 moorings. The study also resulted in the construction of the 225 square-foot Harbormaster’s Office atop the existing Island Wharf Bathhouse. The following year, the appointment of a full-time assistant was approved.
A lot has changed in the nearly 40 years the department has been in operation. The department today is comprised of three full-time employees with an additional seven employees during the summer months. Total mooring numbers now stand at nearly 1,300; coupled with vast increases in public access opportunities, the total number of vessels using Marion waters during the summer months is around 1,700. Oversight and responsibilities of today’s operations is tenfold what it was in the mid-1980s.
Why/Right Size – The Marine Department is tasked with many responsibilities and duties, our most critical being the safe use or our water-related recreational and commercial opportunities so that life, property, and resources are protected. To support these, this new facility is being proposed to remain at the waterfront. Rapid access to the department’s vessels, lifesaving gear, and equipment is critical to the fulfillment of our mission throughout the entire year. Currently, the Marine Department operates out of three separate and individually inadequate locations: Island Wharf, Town Hall, and Atlantis Drive. This arrangement results in a number of inefficiencies that hinder every facet of day-to-day operations. The current Island Wharf facility simply does not provide adequate storage for lifesaving gear, equipment, supplies, tools, and materials crucial to the success of this mission. It does not allow for meeting space or code required accessibility for the citizens of Marion and visitors being served.
Consolidating our administrative functions to a single location is another important step toward ensuring that we maintain and continue to improve our level of service. Additionally, the General Services Administration Guidelines designate an average of 190 square feet as the optimum workspace per person, leaving our office well short of meeting the federal benchmark. Lack of adequate workspace, as with storage, results in a very inefficient working environment. Phone calls, radio transmissions, and in-office meetings all overlap in the same space. Reconfiguration of some of the current interior spaces has taken place; however, these changes have proven to be short-term fixes for these problems.
Simply put, the department outgrew the existing facility years ago. Working in conjunction with the Marine Resources Commission, as well as multiple Town departments and boards, we have been very successful at maximizing public access opportunities through a variety of projects. Coupled with the ever-increasing uses of Marion’s Waterways and the availability of grant funding for projects such as this, we feel this is the opportune time to get the community involved and develop a consensus to move this much needed and overdue project forward.
What Changed in the Design? (Original Design vs. Revised Design) After the preliminary design was made public, concerns were expressed by some about the size. We reevaluated the design with the goal of reducing the size while still meeting the needs of the Marine Department. The following changes were made:
•Total footprint of 5,343 sf was reduced to 2,685 sf;
•Building footprint of 2,528 sf was reduced to 1,790 sf;
•New elevated public bathrooms deleted in favor of renovating the existing two ground-level restrooms/showers (will be two stand-alone 9’x13’, 117 ft structures);
•ADA ramp removed in favor of a handicapped accessible lift accessible at ground level;
•Elevated Observation Deck removed. These areas will remain open space with the potential for future deck/patio construction;
•Harbormaster/Shellfish office space reconfigured and large storage room eliminated;
New renderings illustrate how these changes visually reduced the building’s scale to better blend into the fabric of the waterfront and the town. The reduced scale of the building has allowed for compliance with local height requirements without needing to seek a variance.
Why Can’t We Renovate? – Any expansion of the existing building must meet or exceed FEMA and state building code regulations. In short, any addition would have to be elevated out of the flood zone. Additionally, any renovations to the existing building exceeding 50 percent of the building’s value would trigger the entire structure, including those areas only being renovated, to be made code compliant. The gross inadequacies of the existing facility, along with flood zone and code requirements, make a renovation/ expansion of the existing structure unfeasible. This includes meeting ADA requirements for handicap access and fire code such as sprinkling the building.
The proposed new harbormaster facility is situated in the NE corner of the property to allow for safe traffic flow to and from the facility, parking lots, and other recreation activities supported at the site. This new building location better accommodates storage of department vessels, trailers, and equipment under the building while opening up the site to the greatest extent possible for views to Sippican Harbor.
Funding Sources – We intend to apply to the Seaport Economic Councils Grant Program. This Program has funded a substantial portion of the cost of similar projects in several waterfront municipalities around the Commonwealth. Additional funding, including any matching funds, will come by issuing new debt. The annual debt service, including principal and interest, will be paid from the Waterways account, which has not carried any debt since FY16. We believe this can be done with little or no impact to current and future waterways fees.