Boat launch improvements coming
By Scott Bellile
A six-week project started Monday, Sept. 11, to repair and replace portions of New London’s downtown Wolf River wall and install a new docking system.
“The river wall over its history has had substantial maintenance work on it every 25 years, and I’m talking from going back to the early 1900s,” New London City Administrator Kent Hager told the Press Star Friday, Sept. 8. “It’s been 35 years since the last maintenance work was done on the river wall, so our plan is some significant catch-up on maintenance.”
The wall repairs will span the start of the 200 block of North Water Street, where The Quilting Connection is located, to the Sigurd W. Krostue Memorial Bridge on Pearl Street.
An 86-foot ADA-accessible fishing dock will be installed behind St. John’s Park. The dock will contain a 14-by-14-foot fishing platform and cleats to tie up as many as six boats.
The dock will be tested there but then go into storage until next spring.
The total project cost is $651,040.
NuGen Johnson of Sussex will complete the wall work at a cost of about $263,000, Advance Construction of Green Bay the dredging at $228,000, and ESP Products of Brussels the dock at $160,000.
The back alley along the wall will be closed during the project. Slow no wake rules will also be enforced.
This week NuGen Johnson is expected to remove pavement and excavate for wall removal, according to the work schedule.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources awarded the city of New London two grants totaling over $495,000 to help pay for the new dock. These grants cannot cover more than 50 percent of the project cost. Any leftover grant dollars may be eligible to be used on an upcoming boat landing extension.
The wall project was delayed from the intended start date of June or July.
Former Public Works Director Jeff Bodoh, who left his job in August, told the New London Board of Public Works in June that the delay occurred because although companies turned in bids for the dredging and the dock project in May, nobody bid on the wall portion. Of the two companies expected to bid, one had a full project schedule while the other had an internal communication error about the bidding.
When the city reopened bids on June 23, two contractors submitted. The winner, NuGen Johnson, presented a bid nearly $75,000 lower than Pember Companies of Menomonie.
The New London City Council approved the three low bids for the wall, the dock and dredging in July.
Hager said the city intended to repair and replace the wall from Pearl Street to Shawano Street, but the city did not attract the “appropriate bids for the entirety of the project,” so the city split the job into two phases.
Phase one is the wall from The Quilting Connection to Pearl Street. Phase two will be the Quilting Connection to Shawano Street. The latter will be completed next year, Hager said.
Phase two will also include the construction of two dumpster pads intended to centralize trash pickup in the back alley, Hager said.
Riverside Park boat landing
Downtown New London is not the only part of the Wolf River that will see improvements.
In a separate project, the city plans to extend two of its boat ramps at Riverside Park, located three-quarters of a mile downriver on County Highway X. This is the city’s only motorized boat launch facility.
In July, per city council authorization, Hager applied for a DNR Recreational Boating Fund grant to renovate the boat landing.
The project could cost more than $185,000, New London Parks and Recreation Director Chad Hoerth said. A DNR grant would cover up to half of the cost.
Hoerth told the Press Star Friday, Sept. 8, he presented his case to the Wisconsin Waterways Commission in August. The city should have heard by now whether it won the grant, but delays in state lawmakers passing a budget have put the process on hold, he said.
The delays at the state level have pushed back the project, Hoerth said. The city will not proceed until it hears whether it won the DNR grant.
The city will extend the boat ramps regardless of whether it lands a grant, Hoerth said. If the city does not, then it could be eligible to use some leftover dollars from the river wall grant once that project is completed, and if there are leftover dollars.
The boat landing work was bid out in May. Michels Foundations of New Berlin submitted the lowest bids on two different ramp extension options with $162,940 and $206,140.
Hoerth said he hopes things move along so the boat launch work can occur in 2017. If not, work must wait until after the walleye and white bass runs next year.
Hoerth explained the problems with the current boat launches in a report he wrote in April.
“In 2017 planning is underway to extend the western and central launch ramps as boats have become more powerful and ‘power loading’ is more common,” Hoerth stated. “Power loading has scoured the end of the concrete ramps resulting in a large drop off at the end of the ramp and a buildup of that material directly outward from each ramp. Trailers have dropped off this edge and boat propellers have run into the built up material when the water is low.”
The city purchased the launch from Chester and Alice Allen in 1936 for $10,000, according to Hoerth.
Future needs to consider for the boat launch, Hoerth stated, are better development of the east ramp and automated vending machines for accepting boaters’ payments. He stated the latter would make accounting easier for parks staff and cut down on fraud.
Hoerth told the New London Parks and Recreation Committee in June that a parks official who works near Madison encouraged him to buy automated vending machines.
“He said the biggest thing was in his first year that they had them, their revenue … went up 10 grand that year because they got rid of the cheaters because you can’t cheat,” Hoerth said. “With our current envelope situation, it’s fairly easy to cheat.”
Last year, the boat launch generated $24,784 from the sales of 3,512 passes, according to Hoerth’s report.
From the 406 annual passes sold last year, 160 went to residents and 246 went to non-residents.