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Bristol docks project now fully funded

By Elizabeth Fisher, correspondent

Bucks County Courier Times

 

The docks project off the Mill Street Wharf in Bristol now is totally funded.

 

A $700,000 contribution from the state, through a partnership between state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, R-6, of Bensalem, and state Rep. John Galloway, D-140, of Falls, will make up a more than $500,000 shortfall that jeopardized the $2.1 million project.

 

The announcement of the grant came Wednesday at a press conference held at the wharf, attended by about 150 people, including borough officials, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, Tomlinson and Bucks County Commissioner Rob Loughery.

 

Tomlinson called Bristol a town to be proud of and said that investing in the docks would help revitalize a community already showing improvement. He said lawmakers, community leaders and residents were factors in helping to bring the plans to fruition.

 

Many community leaders believe the project is another giant leap in a series of programs that have highlighted Bristol’s history and business district.

 

“In my view, in addition to being a wonderful recreation site, this project will have a dramatic impact on the borough’s economic development. In fact, the anticipation alone has already spurred economic activity,” Bill Pezza, president of Bristol’s Raising the Bar, said, citing the opening of a new restaurant, an art gallery, and the ongoing construction of condominiums adjoining the wharf area.

 

Jan Ruano, president of the Bristol Cultural and Historical Foundation, said the docks will be an asset to more than just the business community.

 

“This will stimulate visitation to the town and, hopefully, while visitors are here, they’ll see some of our history. It’s exciting to see growth in the town,” Ruano said.

 

When finished, the docks will feature 25 slips for day boaters, tall ship accommodation, and an elevated fixed pier for strollers or fishermen. Construction will begin in November and is expected to be completed by March, borough council President Ralph DiGuiseppe said.

 

The borough initially received $2.5 million in federal and state funds, but $500,000 of that money was spent for environmental testing and permit approvals. When bids received went over the remaining $2 million, officials were reluctant to spend money from town coffers to cover the difference. But the council continued to seek government and private funding to keep the plans afloat.

 

Then at a special meeting in June, the council voted 6-2 to move forward with construction of the docks, even if that meant taking out a loan, because the permits were close to expiring and the contractor could not extend his original agreement with the borough past the end of the month. At the time, DiGuiseppe explained that low interest rates would enable the town to borrow the money. But he also expressed the hope that money to cover the shortfall would come from either government or private contributions.

 

At that meeting, the Grundy Foundation committed to a $250,000 grant that the borough would have to match, and borough businessman Fred Baumgarten contributed another $10,000.

 

 

Correspondent Elizabeth Fisher can be reached through editor Christina Kristofic at ckristofic@calkins.com

 

Paid for by the Friends of Rob Loughery