Town's wharf renos could cost up to $8.2M

The second round of plans for Saint Andrew's Market Wharf project has seen new options, new pricing, a new municipality and now, a new round of consultation.

Town council heard a series of five options for repairing or replacing the wharf, as well as raising the Market Square area to protect against future sea level rise, in a special meeting on Wednesday. After approving a $3.4 million design in 2021, council had to rethink its plan and go back for more funding due to cost increases brought on by the pandemic's impact on shipping and fuel, Brunswick News reported last November.

On Wednesday, Mayor Brad Henderson said the new options need to be sent out for consultation, noting that since amalgamation took effect, residents of Chamcook and Bayside never voted on the project and what the debt means for the new municipality.

"We really need to make sure that residents are aware of what the options are, residents are aware of the costs and that residents are aware of what the implications are long-term," Henderson told Brunswick News. "That's a significant amount of money for a community that's under 3,000 people."

Funding for the project is set on a 70/30 basis, with the municipality funding 30 per cent. Henderson said the municipality got approval this week that $7.8 million will be available from funding partners.

The new options for repairs to the wharf approach, or the area where the wharf connects with the shoreline, include simply repairing the existing structure for $5.37 million over 21 months, filling in the wharf approach with rock and armour stone for $6.06 million over 12 months, using precast concrete stacks for $7.88 million over 18 months, using steel piles and concrete for $8.2 million over 18 months and doing a combination of infill and steel piles for $7.82 million over 13 months, with all time estimates including design.

Kori MacPherson, a senior structural marine engineer from CBCL Limited, walked council through the aspects of the five options. Simply removing and replacing some of the existing piles and making a new timber crib structure would offer potential access to the end of the wharf during construction, but wouldn't raise Market Square enough to support climate change goals and would only last for 10 to 25 years, he said.

Councillor Lee Heenan said that option is out for him due to not meeting the climate change goals, which could affect the additional funding.

The second option, which involves replacing the whole approach structure with rock infill, could possibly be done without blocking access to the wharf during the tourism season and would last for 50-plus years. This was the option council had picked initially, but Henderson told Brunswick News there had been negative feedback the first time around.

"Probably the number one feedback we actually heard from the community at that time is they did not like that option, it didn't fit the look and feel of our community downtown," Henderson said, noting that town heritage bylaws are strict in the downtown area.

"You're basically telling certain business owners that they need to have a look and feel for their building, but when it comes to us when we're saving money, you have to completely alter a historic wharf in our community."

Engineers also proposed building a new 82-metre approach structure with steel piles and concrete, with timber dressing on the sides to retain the heritage look of the wharf. This option would involve construction blocking the rest of the wharf during tourist season, MacPherson said. It's the most expensive option, although engineers also proposed a hybrid half steel, half-infill structure that would be $400,000 cheaper and would be accessible in tourist season.

The remaining alternative includes using precast concrete blocks stacked on top of each other, which is more common in bridge structures than marine structures and involves "some learning curve," MacPherson said. There wouldn't be access to the wharf and cost could vary based on the price of using a crane to install the blocks.

"All those latter three projects, the costs are very similar, so that really comes down to what is the best fit for the community," Henderson told Brunswick News.

CAO Chris Spear said he'd start by meeting with local stakeholders, including commercial users of the wharf and pleasure boaters. He said the key factors to balance in the project are aesthetics, timing and costs. Spear is planning to have the public consultation plan ready by early October and have the results back by December. The project has to be completed by 2026, with next fall planned for the start of the project, Spear said.

MacPherson said the construction timelines in some cases reflect issues with the tides and the need to do some parts, including concrete, during the warmer months. Spear said the town had been looking for ways to keep access to the end of the wharf open in all options, and was open to public suggestions.

Coun. Annette Harland asked what the lifespan of the end of the wharf is currently, which wasn't a part of the presentation. Spear said that it was reconstructed in the 1990s after a fire, and some pile wrapping as part of the project would extend the life of that as well.

"If we're incurring this much debt to fix the approach, what's going to happen and what's the cost going to be when we have to do the pier head, which is a significantly larger investment?" Henderson said to Brunswick News. "We need a wharf, but can this community continue to fund it for such a small community."

He said he's broached the idea of trying to combine with the federal government, which also needs a wharf at its biological research station, but those are "preliminary" talks.

Henderson said that there was "a lot" of feedback last time, and that getting the word out is his priority.

"People had strong opinions about which options they liked, moreso which options they didn't like," he said, noting some questions from the public at the meeting Wednesday. "I don't want to underestimate the consultation on ... if you close the wharf for a year, what impact does that have on our community? There's short-term impacts and long-term impacts."

Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal