‘A rock and a hard place:’ Fire trucks restricted from wharf

Heavy vehicles can no longer access the St. Andrews wharf due to structural deterioration and delays in a costly redesign project.

At a recent town council meeting, a safety inspection report showed “deterioration” to part of the wooden frame under the wharf’s deck due to rot and weathering.

Engineers recommended restricting the weight of vehicles on the wharf to “medium-duty” trucks under 26,000 kilograms.

Coun. Steve Neil says the town’s fire trucks won’t be able to drive on the wharf due to the weight restrictions, raising concerns of potential liability and firefighter response times.

“If there was an accident to happen, the concern would not only be to the immediate vessel but also the surrounding vessels, let alone the wharf itself,” he told council. “That’s my major concern.”

Fuel trucks also can’t drive down the wharf, chief administrative officer Chris Spear said, which is another “big problem” for boat owners who dock their large vessels at the town’s wharf.

The restrictions could remain in place during the town’s busy summer tourist season.

The town has owned the Market Square wharf since 1996. Spear said the town has spent more than $500,000 on “necessary repairs” to the wharf over the past 10 years.

“Not refurbishments,” he clarified, “just repairs to maintain the structure for a few years down the road.”

The town hasn’t received official estimates for this particular repair yet, but Spear estimated it could cost between $50,000 and $85,000, but “it could be a lot higher or lower,” he added.

Now, the council must decide how to address the wharf’s structural problems.

“Do we repair what is there, or replace it with something we’ll have for decades into the future?” Spear said.

The town has been pursuing an ambitious wharf redesign since 2018, with several public consultation sessions in recent years. Some residents spoke against proposed design option because they felt it was contrary to the town’s look and feel.

There were also environmental concerns, as the wider structure could alter tides, muddy the surrounding waters with silt and sand, and possibly cause erosion in other areas of the shoreline.

In 2021, council settled on a $3.4-million design, featuring a concrete wharf and armour stone to buttress the seawall and shoreline of market square.

But, like many other infrastructure projects across New Brunswick, inflation has pushed the project’s price tag from $5 million closer to $8 million.

“We’re caught between a rock and a hard place,” Spear said. “We’re over budget on the project, and don’t want to create more costs by doing a repair to be torn out.”

St. Andrews Mayor Brad Henderson said the “exact reason why we need these repairs” to the wharf is beginning to “force our hand a bit.”

Council will consider its next steps for the wharf at an upcoming meeting.

Marlo Glass, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal