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Hingham bridge delay escalates cost 14 percent

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  January 23, 2014 10:38 AM

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Plans for a pedestrian bridge over Hingham Harbor have not only taken longer than anticipated, but have also grown more expensive.

In the two years Hingham officials have been discussing the project with a waterfront property owner, costs for the bridge, initially pegged at $275,000, have increased 14 percent.

Though the town and property owner haven’t reached an agreement, project proponents hope to receive the additional money at spring Town Meeting.

“These things take a while to germinate,” said Alan Perrault, a member of both the Harbor Development Committee and a trustee of Hingham Bathing Beach. “But I think they are consistent with the plans that have been in the works for some time. Town Meeting has generally been very supportive.”

Hingham officials have remained cautious of the increases, especially in light of the ongoing conflict.

“It would be premature to say this is a done deal,” said Selectman Bruce Rabuffo.

Plans for a harbor walk connecting Whitney Wharf to 3 Otis St. have been ongoing since April 2012, when Town Meeting approved $275,000 in Community Preservation Funds for the construction of the bridge.

The money comes from a 1.5 percent surcharge on residents’ property taxes, and can be used for recreation, historical preservation, purchase of open space, or creation of affordable housing.

Part of an extensive plan to update Hingham Harbor and make it more pedestrian- friendly, the sea-crossing bridge is intended to open up harbor access. The plans were also the start of a hoped-for harbor walk along Hingham’s shore.

Since receiving funding, Hingham officials have been working with the owner of 3 Otis St. to negotiate an easement on his property for the bridge’s landing.

A deal was in sight in April 2013, when officials were granted $10,000 from Town Meeting to purchase the easement.

Town Meeting also granted an additional $10,000 to build a storage structure on town-owned land, giving the property owner an alternative storage solution for his mooring equipment.

Yet plans were put on hold when Selectman Paul Healey objected to the idea of giving away town land to a private resident, especially for the construction of a permanent storage shed.

Officials have gone back to the negotiating table, yet nothing has materialized.

Meanwhile project costs have escalated.

According to Perrault, the Community Preservation Committee has already granted preliminary approval for the additional costs, which amount to about $40,000.

Both the Advisory Board and Selectmen will have to make a recommendation on the funding before it goes to Town Meeting for approval, yet support may not come so easily.

“In two years, I’d like to know what’s different,” Rabuffo said. “It may be perfectly legitimate, but I don’t know what material or labor costs have gone up.”

Rabuffo also said resolving debate with the property owner should be a top priority.

“We have to come to some form of closure,” he said.

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