CHATHAM — With most conflicts with commercial fishermen now resolved, the fish pier observation deck project is edging toward completion.
The town is working with general contractor Sciaba Construction Corp. to finalize a change order that establishes a project completion date of Sept. 2.
Health and Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson showed selectmen photos Monday showing the progress of deck construction on the south side of the building. This portion represents an expansion over the previous deck, which ended at the southeast corner of the packing house. Once complete, this area will provide a good view of fishing boats and seals in the south jog, he said.
“It looks great and it’s watertight,” he said. The new deck is higher than before, which allows the storage of more fish totes and equipment underneath. The unique tongue-and-groove design of the deck material also keeps dust and debris from falling down on fish as it’s being unloaded. “That will all disappear once this new deck is completely in place,” Duncanson said. Eventually, a set of emergency egress stairs will be built on the south side deck.
With the fish hoists and davits now functional, and with the new fuel pumps operational, “the fishing operation is going on under the new deck basically unimpeded,” he added.
The fuel system has been online since July 19, but some of the equipment suffered wind damage in the July 23 storm and will need to be replaced, Duncanson said. The next section of deck to be erected will be on the east side of the building. The east-facing doors that once led to the deck from the second floor of the packing house have been removed and will be replaced by emergency exit doors on the gable ends of the building.
Progress has been slower on the north side of the packing house, where the main stairs and the handicap-accessible elevator will be installed.
“This side’s a little bit more complicated,” Duncanson said. Concrete footings have been poured for the stairs and a pad has been installed for the elevator, though that has also been a challenge. An anticipated change in the codes set by the Americans with Disabilities Act is expected to result in a requirement that the elevator be larger than initially planned.
“We went ahead and made the decision to upgrade,” Duncanson told the board. The larger space will ensure that people who use wheelchairs will have adequate turning space, he said.
The area between the footings will soon be paved, which will prevent the accumulation of fish waste that have caused odors on hot days.
The town has authorized the contractor to work until midnight, and crews have apparently been working at the site well after dark.
The slow progress to date is related in part to several change orders requested by the town, amounting to around $73,000. Some of the necessary changes came about when crews removed the siding of the packing house and discovered that structural members were damaged or missing altogether. Seen as part of the $1.4 million job, the change orders are “not a significant number so far,” Duncanson said.
“It’s just unfortunate we haven’t had it up for the summer,” Selectman Jeffrey Dykens said, though it’s clear progress is being made. “Maybe there’s hope that they’ll get it done by the second,” he said. “The proof’s in the pudding.”
Dykens suggested that the town hold back additional payments until the project is closer to completion.
Duncanson said a close inspection of the work so far shows how complex and carefully designed the deck will be.
“This is way more than a typical residential deck,” he said. Asked by Selectman Cory Metters whether he believes the contractor will finish the work by Sept. 2, Duncanson said he is hopeful.
“I’m not going to bet a paycheck on it,” he said, but he’s optimistic that progress will now begin to accelerate.
Resident Elaine Gibbs said she visited the new marina at Saquatucket Harbor in Harwich and was impressed.
“It is the most outstanding project. It’s huge,” she said, and construction was done fairly quickly. Gibbs voiced concerns about the type of composite decking being used in Chatham, which is being manufactured by a relatively small company. If the firm goes out of business, its warranty will be moot, she said.
Duncanson said the town chose the deck product because of its unique water-tight properties, and engineers and the manufacturer have confirmed that it is suitable for commercial use and holds an appropriate warranty.