The Block Island Times

Committee tours transfer station and beach pavilion

By Lars Trodson | Jul 25, 2014
Photo by: Lars Trodson Some of the sinks in the women's bathroom at the Beach Pavilion.

“We’ve heard there are one or two issues going on,” Sven Risom said.

“Oh, God,” said Block Island Recycling Management (BIRM) co-owner Sean McGarry by way of a wry reply.

The two were talking about the transfer station, located off Corn Neck Road, that is owned by the town but operated by BIRM. McGarry was giving a tour to the members of the Large Asset Committee (Risom is the chair of this group), a subcommittee of the Planning Board that has been charged with touring and assessing the condition of the buildings and land that the Town of New Shoreham owns. (I am a member of this committee, which serves only in an advisory capacity. The committee does not set policy or vote on any of the matters before it.) This was the second stop on the tour, the group having visited the Coast Guard House a few weeks back.

The transfer station consists of just a few physical assets: the main building where the dumpsters are housed for recycled materials, the truck scale, and the water-oil separator basin behind the small scale shack where garbage that can’t be recycled is thrown.

The main building — a near-empty warehouse — is structurally sound, McGarry said, but could use some new siding.

“Is the town aware there are holes in the envelope of the building?” asked LASC member Kevin Hoyt.

“Yes,” said McGarry.

“That’s a major issue,” said Hoyt.

The fire suppression unit — literally a black plastic pipe sticking out of the ground — wouldn’t douse even a small fire, said McGarry. The building’s concrete apron, where heavy machinery crosses over multiple times each day, is badly cracked and sunken in. One of the bays — which residents back into to unload their recyclables — was hit sometime back but while the building itself was repaired, the siding was never replaced.

There were smaller issues, McGarry said, including traffic flow: cars and people are constantly on the move. “We need to streamline the way the traffic flows,” said McGarry. He also talked about the oil and water separator, which is essentially a large pit behind the small scale shack.

“This is one of our biggest issues,” said McGarry. “In reality, this should be in a building.” McGarry said that town engineer Jim Geremia has had a design for the drainage and repair of the separator for at least 10 years.

The Beach Pavilion

Although the structure only dates back to the early 1990s, stepping into the Fred Benson Beach Pavilion is like going back in time. The fairly simple wood structure, painted gray, houses showers, small rental lockers, public restrooms and a concession stand, Rebecca’s at the Beach.

Robbie Closter, who oversees the Pavilion in the summer months, gave the members of the LASC a tour. He said the building brings in about $95,000 a year in revenue — from chair and umbrella rentals, as well as from the lease of the concession stand — and clears about $15,000.

One of the main issues for the structure, said Closter, is that the “building is constantly shifting.” It’s built on concrete cylinders, and is located in the floodplain.

“We’re lucky we didn’t lose the building during (Super Storm) Sandy,” said LASC member Rob Gilpin, adding that town beachhouses on the mainland “are so much better.”

“And durable,” said Closter. Closter said the town had applied for a Department of Environmental Management grant update a couple of years ago, but the grant “didn’t score well because the DEM was looking to fund new projects, and this is an existing project.”

There are three shower stalls that do not meet the public need, and both the men’s and ladies’ restrooms have rusty fixtures, including rusted sinks, commodes and urinals, Closter said. “There’s a 40 minute wait for the showers,” said Closter.

“It’s a big building, but there’s a lot of wasted space,” said LASC member Sam Bird.

There are small cabanas to rent, but only a few are, and still others are used for storage, including beach equipment and inventory for the concession stand. “This could be a beautiful shower/changing room area,” said Committee Chair Sven Risom.

Members of the LASC said the Beach Pavilion was an ideal structure for solar heating, but that had not been installed.

Closter estimated that the vast majority of the people using the Pavilion are daytrippers. He said users of the beach changed when the New London ferry started doing business, and people started coming in from New York and Connecticut. They come for the day, bring their coolers, umbrellas and chairs, and do not go into town to shop or stay at the inns.

In 2013, the town commissioned Northeast Collaborative Architects to do a study on the Pavilion, which ended up offering three different plans on renovating the building. The study provides floor plan options and a review of the condition of the building but, as the study pointed out, only a minimum amount of renovations have been done on the building since it was refurbished in 1990.

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