Westport approves design funds for shared bridge work

WESTPORT — After months of talks — and some idle threats — between Westport and Weston, the town’s Representative Town Meeting unanimously approved $62,000 toward a repair project for the shared Cavalry Road Bridge.

“This is for design work,” Director of Public Works Pete Ratkiewich said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Once the bridge’s design is complete, we’ll be coming back to you for construction funds.”

SIGN UP here to get daily Westport News and alerts on breaking news

The appropriation represents a portion of the shared design expenses to begin a $2.7 million plan to replace the bridge, which connects the two towns over the West Branch of the Saugatuck River. Weston will take lead on the project and 80% of the costs will be reimbursed by the federal local bridge program.

The bridge’s need for repairs has been a particular sore point for the neighboring municipalities over the past year.

Controversy arose when the towns began debating over how to split the remaining 20% of total costs. Weston’s push to have Westport pay more toward the project eventually culminated in a Westport Board of Finance member suggesting to increase beach sticker prices for Weston residents. Other members accused Weston of not being “good neighbors.”

Ratkiewich claimed there had initially been a discussion before 2016 between the two towns’ engineers to evenly split the costs for minor repairs.

“It was at the time before 2016 the costs were a lot less than they are today,” he said. “Now we’re replacing the entire bridge ... the cost has increased quite a bit.”

Ultimately, Weston favored a state statute that calls for comparing the last three years of grand lists for each town and applying the bridge expenses proportionally. This method would see Westport bear about 73% of the project’s remaining costs.

“We’re estimating the construction funds of the $2.7 million project will be about $600,000 to the town of Westport,” Ratkiewich said.

Finger pier replacements

In other business, the RTM voted to approve $240,000 toward replacing 17 of the smaller docks — called finger piers — on F Dock at the Ned Dimes Marina.

Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Fava said the project to remove the old piers and install new ones is planned for November. There is no option for repair due to the finger piers losing their structural integrity.

“They are well beyond their life span,” Fava said. “But the rest of the docks remain in good condition.”

The units are estimated to cost $119,000 while the labor costs are $120,000. The debt service is $15,609 for 20 years and will be covered by boater fees.

The RTM also voted 30-0 with one abstention a request $125,000 with bond and note authorization to upgrade the controls for Longshore Golf Course irrigation system. With the upgrades, the town could avoid a complete system overhaul, which could cost more than $1 million.

“It’s imperative, clearly if people remember back a few years, that we have a properly working irrigation system, Fava said. “Otherwise we could see catastrophic effects on the golf course.”