Town still wants to build boat ramp

Published 12:10 pm Wednesday, May 31, 2017

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

The town of Smithfield is asking for a two-year extension and nearly $400,000 in additional funding from the state for a public boat ramp project that’s taken on some water.

The town was originally awarded a grant of $252,815 from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) to construct the boat ramp at Clontz Park, and had anticipated that the grant would cover the total costs of the project, according to Town Manager Peter Stephenson.

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However, higher than anticipated bids from contractors for the project, the lowest of which was more than $500,000, and the highest of which was $1.4 million, spurred some reevaluations, and brought the project back to the drawing board. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

While money was an issue, time began to be as well.

The grant from VMRC came with an expiration date, mandating that the boat ramp be completed by May 31 of this year.

The town’s deed to Clontz Park from Smithfield Foods, accepted in 2015 in order for the town to be eligible for the VMRC grant, also came with the caveat that the ramp be completed within 24 months of its acceptance, otherwise the ownership of the park reverts back to the pork processing company.

Foods has agreed to amend the deed, according to Stephenson, and the town is requesting that it be given until March 2019 to complete the project.

The grant extension and request for an additional $393,185 now hinge on the result of a public hearing held by the VMRC Recreational Fishing Advisory Board July 10.

Stephenson has suggested at previous Smithfield Town Council committee meetings that some of the costs, such as the design of the boat ramp, may have to be on the town’s dime.

One of the main issues in the contractor bids for the project, which were all rejected by the Town Council last year, were the expense for the cofferdam required to construct the ramp.

The lowest build just to build the cofferdam, a temporary structure placed around the construction site to keep out water, was $218,000.

The two boat ramps nearest to Smithfield are at Tyler’s Beach in Rushmere and Jones Creek in Carrollton.  {/mprestriction}