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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

City awards $44.2 million boardwalk contract
(Page 3 of 4)
Christina Daly/Herald
The city awarded a $44.2 million contract to Grace Industries, LLC to rebuild its iconic boardwalk.

Builders will use 2x6 boards instead of the previous 2x4s, laid out east-west, in contrast to the north-south design of the old boardwalk, with 1/8-inch gaps between them. Officials have said this will reduce vibrations for bikes, strollers and wheelchairs. The design also includes aluminum pipe railing and antique light poles and fixtures. The height of the structure will remain the same, 17 feet above sea level, and beneath it, a wave break wall will be built — at a cost of $6 million — to prevent the kind of extensive damage that Hurricane Sandy caused.

Some residents said that if FEMA doesn’t cover the cost of the rebuild, the cash-strapped city and its taxpayers could be on the hook. “I have real concern … that we may be doing it too soon, before we have answers,” resident Matthew Dwyer told the council. “I don’t want to be stuck with a bill because we’ve been hasty.”

“We have no answers whatsoever from FEMA, and that’s very scary,” added resident Eileen Hession. “Our taxes have already gone up several times this year. Please think carefully before you decide on $44 million.”

City Manager Jack Schnirman said that although the city is holding the project to an “aggressive” timeline, the city has been in talks with FEMA, and held a meeting with the agency on April 4 to discuss “using the Stafford Act to lay out money in advance so the city would not have to do that. We’re moving the ball forward.”

LaCarrubba said the city is hopeful that, with the help of FEMA, community development block grants, public assistance grants and other funding, most if not all of the project’s costs will be covered. Still, he said, the city might have to assume a portion of the cost.

“FEMA will never give you a 100 percent affirmation on anything — they don’t like to give you anything until they see work commence,” LaCarrubba said. “We’ve had good conversations with them, and we’re moving forward in a very positive direction.”

Councilman John McLaughlin said that while the city might be responsible for some of the “mind-boggling” costs of the project, the boardwalk is the city’s most important asset. “It’s vital to the city,” he said.

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