CHATHAM – Construction of a new observation deck at the municipal fish pier won't be completed until after the July 4 holiday.
“The deck may be up, but it won't be open to the public in time for July 4,” said Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson.
The $1.6 million construction project at the pier, which includes a new deck and replacement of underground fuel tanks, has been delayed by wet weather, contract changes and other problems since it began earlier this spring. The most recent completion date was June 26, more than a month after the original mid-May deadline. Duncanson said Tuesday a new construction schedule was submitted by contractor Sciaba Construction Corp. of Walpole, but officials had not yet reviewed it. A meeting with the contractor was scheduled for Wednesday.
It's not likely that the deck will be completed and open to the public for “a period of time” after July 4, he said. The town has given Sciaba permission to work on Sundays and until 9 p.m. weeknights to help speed up the work.
The fish pier observation deck is one of the town's top tourist attractions, drawing as many as 3,000 visitors daily during the summer to watch fishing boats offload and seals frolic in the water. The construction work limits the area tourists can gather at the pier and has caused a drop in business for the Fish Pier Market, which is adjacent to the facility.
Fishermen are also concerned that they won't have full access to the pier facilities once the commercial fishing season begins in the next few weeks. Electronic hoists fishermen need to offload their catch will likely be ready by Monday, Duncanson said, and repaving of the upper parking lot, where the fuel tanks were replaced, and sections of the lower lot should be completed next week, depending on weather, he said.
“As long as we're buttoned up in two weeks,” said fisherman Doug Feeney, chairman of the town's Aunt Lydia's Cove committee. Plans call for the pre-fabricated deck to be lowered in place, and fishermen don't want crews working above them as they try to unload their vessels, he said.
Concrete foundations for the deck are already in place. The new deck will be substantially larger than the old one and will be free-standing so that it is not tied to the packing building, as the previous deck was. It will also include a small elevator and an emergency stairway on the south side.
The deck is being constructed off-site and was due on site last Friday, Harbormaster Stuart Smith told a gathering Saturday. While it will be a noticeable improvement—the previous deck was limited to 100 people due to structural concerns—not having it available over the July 4 holiday weekend and into the busy summer will be problematic.
“We're going to have a lot of traffic and pedestrian issues we'll have to contend with,” Smith said. Once it is finished, however, the deck will be “pretty impressive,” he said.
Town officials will be assessing the reasons for the construction delays—how much weather, contract changes and other issues like minor fuel contamination found near a sump were factors—to determine if penalties will be leveled against the contractor, Duncanson said.