Winthrop eyes $1.8 million matching grant to kick off redevelopment of Winthrop Beach and Norcross Point

WINTHROP – Winthrop has the opportunity to receive a grant from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to cover half the cost of a $3.5 million development project for Norcross Point and the adjacent public beach.

City officials estimate the total cost of the project at $3,545,533, with the Norcross Point portion at $1,935,148 and the beach portion at $1,610,385.

Norcross Point projects include shoreline stabilization, estimated to cost $655,750; demolition of the toilet building and boat wash station and construction of new facilities; the renovation of the nautical facilities, including the expansion and resurfacing of the parking lot; and floating docks.

Additional amenities could include metal railings for the gazebo, security cameras and Wi-Fi, picnic tables, bike racks, information signs and kiosks, and a playground

Renovations to the public beach would include the removal of the concrete bathing jetty, seasonal access with shore seating that meets Americans with Disabilities Act standards, a paved walkway, a sidewalk adjacent to on-street parking, and stone seats by the water.

Shoreline stabilization for the park at the public beach is estimated at $611,875.

If the city council goes ahead with a matching grant for the entire project, construction will likely not begin until the second half of 2023.

Councilman Anthony Wess, who helped lead a study into the redevelopment of beach properties, said at the Jan. 24 council meeting that the city recently received approval for a $320,000 grant. from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the project.

City Manager Jeff Kobrock, who also helped lead the study, said the Land and Water Conservation Fund board has shown strong support for providing additional funding after the grant is approved. .

“In discussion with a program manager (Land and Water Conservation Fund) after our award, he indicated that this was a wonderful project that he was very supportive of,” Kobrock said, “and that if we were to provide more local matches, that would provide more grants. So, in other words, the door was open for us to increase our local matches and maintain that 50% grant ratio.”

Kobrock said the discussion was “informal,” but the city has the option of extending the $320,000 grant to potentially cover half of the entire project.

With the original, smaller grant, Wess said the city would likely have to complete the project in phases over five or six years. Issues with this plan include managing changes in the permitting process and zoning rules, and the need to start and stop multiple times.

“Having a project that long would increase the cost by almost a million dollars,” Wess said, “because every time you stop and start a project, you have to move in and move out, and the mobilization costs could be something. shares about $150,000 per phase.

If the city goes ahead with securing a matching grant for the entire project, Kobrock said debt service and capital requirements would decrease over time.

“We’re in a position where we can actually borrow money and still see our capital expenditures go down, even with the additional debt service removed,” Kobrock said.

According to financial projections, the City’s annual payment would be $102,342 over 20 years.

Councilor Linda Caprara raised concerns about the amount of money required for the project, even with the 50% matching grant.

“I’m just not comfortable spending that kind of money on this project,” Caprara said. “I would gladly spend the money on redoing the docks and some of the other improvements that need to be made, but I’m not inclined to endorse that amount of money.”

Councilor Barbara Alexander asked how the town would go about confirming the additional grant and if another application would be required.

Kobrock said that through informal conversations with the head of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, he learned that the door was open for the city to accept the full grant and the organization only needed more. Board confirmation to officially move forward.

Alexander suggested raising awareness of the plan and seeking community feedback.

Wess stressed quick action on the project because erosion along the beach and boat ramp will worsen significantly in the coming years.

He said he was not opposed to community outreach, but when he started working on the project two years ago, his main responsibility was community outreach. With a community of around 6,000, he and others reached out to a few thousand locals and heard nothing but positive feedback.

“We could do outreach again, but that would kind of slow us down,” Wess said. “They all know what we are doing. We don’t hide anything. »

Council chairwoman Sarah Fuller said on the one hand she had heard residents say the area had been overlooked because some felt it wasn’t worth spending the money on. On the other hand, she says, people will wonder why towns like Hallowell, Augusta and Gardiner are striving to improve their assets.

“That’s exactly the crux. We’re not willing to spend money to maintain or improve the assets we currently have, and it’s really just a great opportunity to do that with a game that’s pretty without precedent,” Fuller said. “I think we were extremely excited to get the first grant approved. To have that door open to us again is a rare opportunity that doesn’t come around very often.”

Since the Land and Water Conservation Fund is expected to receive an answer soon, Fuller suggested revisiting the issue and taking action at the next city council meeting, scheduled for February 7.

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