020619 STN Lt Gov Susan Bysiewicz town dock hh 307.JPG

Stonington First Selectman explains the Connecticut Port Authority project to repair the south fishing pier at the town docks to Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and State Rep. Kate Rotella during a visit to the town docks on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. Also pictured is Stonington Town Engineer Scot Deledda. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

STONINGTON — An engineering firm has developed several early-stage proposals on how to address issues at the Town Dock's South Pier and improve the pier's long-term resiliency and viability. Now the town is seeking input from the public before heading to the design stage.

The town will host a community conversation Thursday at the La Grua Center, 32 Water St. in Stonington, to provide details of the proposals and gauge the public's interest and concerns regarding the various options. The program, which will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m., is open to all residents and business leaders in the community.

Stonington Director of Planning Jason Vincent said representatives of Stantec Inc., an international professional engineering services company hired to provide consultation, will be on hand to present the concepts and take questions.

"There were concerns presented to the town by tenants at the pier that repairs to the dock made in 2009 are failing," Vincent said in a phone interview Tuesday. "Stantec was hired to conduct an evaluation and the company has come up with several options that would protect the asset and ensure that the facility is more resilient for both the community and commercial fleet."

The town first began moving to address concerns after members of the Southern New England Fishermen's and Lobstermen's Association expressed concerns following a collapse in one section of the pier. The association's members use the facility at the South Pier for berthing and commercial fishing operations.

Stonington received a $255,000 state grant from the Connecticut Port Authority in January 2018 for the development of a conceptual design to address repairs and hired Stantec to oversee the effort after putting out a request for proposals.

Vincent said Tuesday that the company has since developed five options for the pier, ranging from taking no action at all to full dock repairs and development around the existing facility. Estimated costs for each proposal will be released on Thursday as part of the larger discussion, Vincent said.

"There are rough estimates that have been worked out for each proposal, but context is a critical part of those overall numbers," he said.

When the town first applied for the grant, First Selectman Rob Simmons said the community must consider options and warned that not taking action could put the town at risk.

"If the pier does collapse, it could damage property and injure people. So, just as there may be a risk to the town on conceding on indemnification. There's also a risk to the town if we don't go forward," Simmons said at the time.

Town officials said the feedback following Thursday's presentation, which is not considered a formal hearing, would be used to develop a more formal long-term design plan. That plan would likely be developed before the end of the year, according to Vincent, and the town would move forward at that time to secure funding for project implementation.

Any formal design, which would be developed in collaboration with town department heads and staff, will need to be approved through the town's planning review process. The project is under the aegis of the Waterfront Commission.

Those unable to attend the community conversation can also obtain information from the Stonington Department of Planning following Thursday's presentation. The department will also take submitted public comments in the week following the community conversation. All input will be used to provide guidance to the formal design team, officials said.

"We are hoping to entice the public to come and share their thoughts on this project. We want to make sure the design is one that will prove to be beneficial for all stakeholders in the community," Vincent said.

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