Indianola dock still closed; tax hike on ballot

INDIANOLA — Indianola’s iconic dock will remain closed while the Port Commission gathers more information on what kind of repairs the dock could need.

A presentation by Coast & Harbor Engineering described potential problems with the dock to a packed Indianola Community Center, Tuesday during a special meeting of the Port Commission. A number of people voiced their concern regarding the commission’s decision to close the dock, and criticized the decision as not being made based on recommendations from outside entities.

Shane Phillips, an engineer with Coast & Harbor, said the dock has been reconstructed and repaired since the original was built in 1913 and used as a ferry dock. It was constructed for a small community, he said.

“Intensity of use is much different,” Phillips said. The dock needs new bracing and fixes to, or replacements of, specific pilings, according to the presentation. No specific area on the dock was identified for repairs.

Though it was made clear that repairs are needed, neither the representatives of Coast & Harbor, or Mark Antonietti from Enduris Washington, the port’s insurance carrier, specifically said the dock needs to be closed.

The port has a safety concern, Antonietti said. As a government entity, the port is held to a higher standard, he said. If someone does get injured because the dock is in bad shape, the dock could be shut down, he said.

“I’m not saying the dock should be open or closed; that’s [the commission’s] decision,” Antonietti said. He continued by saying he wants everyone to “just be careful.”

The port has liability insurance.

Port commissioners expect to keep the dock closed until more data is collected on the dock’s condition. The port has a few options when it comes to repairs or replacement.

Immediate maintenance on the dock, which could include replacing bracing and repairing pilings, is estimated to cost between $110,000 and $240,000. Depending on how much money the port spends on dock repairs, it could cost as much as $480,000, which would include piling replacement.

Phillips suggested that immediate repairs to curb fears and reopen the dock should include a complete analysis and cross brace pilings. He said the port should consider putting a load restriction on the dock. Other short-term maintenance of three to seven years should include pile replacements.

In the long term, Phillips said the port will have to weigh out the pros and cons of continuing to spend money on dock repairs, or replacing it. Replacing the dock would cost upwards of $1.8 million — depending on what type of dock is built.

Longtime Indianola resident Michael Milling suggested the port “think outside the box” when it come to dock work. Milling wants the port to consider removing the high portions of the dock, for example, and just have the dock’s entrance accessible on the beach.

Milling was one of 28 people originally signed up to speak during public comment during the July 23 special meeting. The meeting lasted well past the expected two hours.

The comment period included speakers inquiring about grant opportunities, to outright accusations of port commissioners making decisions based on false information. Some speakers encouraged the port to focus its spending on the dock — not lighting, security, or Mutt Mitts.

“As a taxpayer … there’s been a lack of due process,” homeowner Tammy Mattson said during the comment period.

Thomas Bowman, who owns a house in Indianola but is not a full-time resident, said commissioners need to do a cost/benefit study on the dock. Commissioners need to do a comprehensive study on whether to “keep it, close it, or build another” dock.

Port of Indianola commissioners voted to close the dock in a special meeting June 27, following a letter from Coast & Harbor. Concerns raised in the letter included how easy it was to make the dock “sway.”

The closure has been met with resistance from the community. Indianola resident Matthew Smith filed as a write-in candidate for the District 2 position held by Judith Frank. A Facebook page — Save the Indianola Dock — was created to encourage the reopening of the dock and to keep residents updated on dock news.

Less than three days after the dock was closed, a barricade was removed multiple times; the last time it was removed, it was placed on Frank’s property.

Port commissioners will ask Indianola residents to increase its tax levy on the November ballot, from 15 cents to 22 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. For the average property, that’s $55 a year and $60,000 in total revenue for the port.


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