Finance committee approves resolution for dredging
At tonight’s Finance Committee meeting, the resolution sponsored by Alderperson Theodore Ruffalo and co-sponsored by Alderperson Tod Ohnstad to place a request for proposal for engineering services to discover a long-term solution to eliminate silt deposition in the Kenosha Harbor mouth was approved unanimously.
Tom Hartley, a boater with the Kenosha Yacht Club, and Jim Kramers, both spoke in favor of the work being done on the harbor. Hartley was in favor of not only a long-term study, but a short-term solution being needed as well. “The harbor mouth is only four or five feet deep now. For this summer, it’s a critical situation for this year.” Kramers said that this is a problem not only for boaters, but for the entire city. “Commercial fishermen are affected as well. I’m in favor of both long-term and short-term efforts.”
Chairman David Bogdala asked Frank Pacetti, the city administrator, why the work was not completed last year when it had been approved and money for the work was included in the city’s budget. Pacetti deferred the question to Mike Lemens, the new director of public works, who stated that the city’s long-term permit had expired, and it took all of last summer to get a new permit approved by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). When asked what a probable estimated time of the project might be, Lemens stated, “We are down three engineers now. It will take two to three weeks to get the Request for Proposal (RFP) put together.” There was an unexpected retirement and an unexpected resignation in the department. Bogdala stated that this is a “safety and economic development issue.”
Ruffalo said that his proposed resolution doesn’t address the immediate solution to the problem. He proposed an additional clause to add at the end of his resolution: “Find and implement an immediate solution to the current build-up at the end of the harbor mouth.” Pacetti assured the committee that the work would be done this year. Ruffalo went further. “It’s a public safety and welfare issue. What if a boat can’t get into the harbor, and it keels over, and a person is drowned?” he said. Lemens promised that it would be given urgent priority. He stated that “he may have to bring in an outside consultant to finish the job (to have an RFP out for bid within three to four weeks – by April 5th).” Ruffalo then said that the boating season starts in a month.
Pacetti also referenced the low lake level in general. “This is a perfect storm. If the work had been done last year, we might still have had to do it again this year because of the low lake level.” Alderperson Daniel Prozanski said that he read that in a forum that statements were made about the amount of money spent on dredging and that the city should be able to afford to buy its own dredger. (To read the article on the mayoral forum that was held at the Kenosha Yacht Club, click here: Harbor Issues Discussed at Tonight’s Debate.) “This is not a new issue. Dredging is half the battle. You still have to take the sand and put it on barges and dispose of it somewhere.”
Ruffalo agreed. “This has been an issue for a while, ever since I took office. We need to think long-term. To spend $250,000 every other year is irresponsible. To give you another example: Alderperson Eric Haugaard (not present at the meeting) told me that the average age of our buses is 17 years. Instead of using the money to buy some new buses, the city bought a new wrecker to deal with towing of the aging bus system.”
Bogdala stated that the Army Corps of Engineers is also willing to help. “I’m glad that it’s a part of the downtown study. I’m glad that they are looking at a long-term solution.”