Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ferry delayed until June 11, city lacks transparency

Well that last post had the shortest shelf life ever.

Apparently the Ferry commuters will have to wait a few more weeks to enjoy the boat trip to Boston. The Salem Ferry has suspended service, with an estimated start date of June 11. Readers of this blog will know that I've told you the pier wouldn't be ready for weeks, at least. It was an aggressive deadline, and the Monday through Friday work has been vigorous. Several times recently it has continued past 7 or 8 at night. They took weekends off, and with the hours they put in I don't think you can really blame them. I do think you can fault the city for a near complete lack of transparency on this. As someone who, if forced to choose between Team Driscoll, and Team Anti-Driscoll, would readily admit to being Team Driscoll about 95% of the time. (I know this really disappoints some of you.) I totally believe in almost all of her vision for Salem. I've voted for her twice, and I'd do so again tomorrow.

That said ... the handling of the Ferry situation leaves a lot to be desired. Mayor Driscoll ran for mayor on a platform of openness, transparency, communication, and professionalism. It would appear that some pieces of that recipe were missing here. Announcing to the commuters who take it every day, and the concierges from Boston who were just in town to sample it, among other things, that the Ferry won't start tommorrow, and waiting until there were 24 hours left to do so, shows a lack of transparency, and a lack of "open communication with residents." Go back and look at the pictures I posted on May 16. It was crystal clear at that point (as well as a few weeks before, at least) that Blaney Street would not be ready for passengers on May 27. The contractors have been telling neighbors who inquired that they were two weeks behind for at least six weeks.

The city absolutely loses credibility when, earlier this week, Deputy Planning Director Kathy Winn is quoted as saying, "We do have some concern about whether or not (the ferry landing) is going to be ready on Friday." Some concern? Go take a look. The sewer pipes aren't even underground on the residential portion of Blaney Street yet. Some concern? Why didn't she just say, "We're hopeful that some construction fairies will come along, and with their magical powers finish the pier this week." That's literally what they'd have needed. There was no chance, and the city has known it for weeks. Why not allow residents the chance to plan ahead? The contractor has made a massive amount of progress this week. Even still, there is enough left to do that it was obvious to all that it wasn't happening.

Beyond informing residents, why not inform the Ferry operator sooner? As we've discussed, the Ferry operator knew last weekend that Blaney wouldn't be ready. It was clear from my conversation with their rep that they were very unhappy with the very short notice that they received, after being assured long after it was obvious that it wouldn't be finished, that in fact it would. Given more time, they may have been able to come up with a viable alternative for the short term. Is it possible that with everything that's being put into the pier that the city was afraid they'd find a better long-term alternative if given the ability to relocate? As the city purchased the boat, they probably hold a lot of say, but if the operator were to determine that it was a better business running out of the Central Wharf area couldn't they push for that?

On May 16, I wrote:

I would bet money right now that in about a week we'll hear that they aren't going to make it due to the weather.
I was wrong. The city waited well more than a week, until the VERY last minute to say this, on May 25th. You can read about the mayor blaming the weather here, and the mayor's aide, Jason Silva, blaming the weather here.

Let's look at this claim, that the weather made us do it. I'm sure, that as an outdoor project, normal rainfall, and the delays that would cause, were factored in. If they weren't that would be a colossal failure of project planning. This administration knows how to plan the work, and work the plan.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), normal March precipitation is 4.14 inches. In March of 2011, the region actually experienced 3.07 inches, or an inch less than normal. Based on that, March should have come in ahead of schedule, after receiving only 74% of the predicted precipitation. In April, expected precipitation is 3.74 inches, and we received 4.25, or .51 inches more than expected. All told, the expected precipitation for March and April is 7.88 inches, and we received 7.32 inches. Can we stop blaming the rains for this project being behind going into May? The project was behind on April 1, as residents who were told that Blaney Street would be closed as of that day were able to continue using it for about 2 or 3 weeks after that.

Speaking of May, normal May precipitation is 3.56 inches. Believe it or not, we (according to have only received 2.8 inches of precipitation this month. I'll admit it feels like more, but many days were only misty. All told, there has been moderate rain on 9 days in the last two months.

I guess my real question is, what's so wrong with the truth in this situation? Why doesn't the city, through its various spokespeople, just say, "We made a valiant effort to get this done in time. Unfortunately, as with every construction project, there were unforeseen issues that made things take longer than we hoped. This was compounded by the fact that we delayed starting the project as long as we possibly could to allow people to use the landing for snow emergency parking for several weeks past our ideal start date. We will continue to work as hard as possible to finish as soon as is practical."

The city could have said that two weeks ago, and I wouldn't have given them a hard time. I've seen this construction every day. They are working very hard. It's understandable that with the tight timeline they weren't able to complete the work by tomorrow. What I don't understand is why it took them so long to admit it, and why they are blaming weather that has been average at worst.

One other note: The recipient of a construction workers foul mouth did email Kathy Winn and the mayor about the situation. She reports that neither have responded to her, though not surprisingly, her driveway is actually her own again. No construction vehicles in it since, so I guess they read it at least.

One more: Madam Mayor, I do still love you. you too, @JaSizz


  1. still no traffic lights at conngress street either.

  2. G, you know I love you, but you really wear me out on this one! I think you missed your true calling: an IRS examiner!
    Also, this post strikes me as a perfect example of Orwell's term "doublespeak": the ability to hold two diametrically opposed opinions at the same time. "I love the mayor and I would vote for her in a heartbeat but she won on a promise of openness, etc, and here is a case where she was everything but open and honest but I really do love her and worship the ground she walks on but she really did blah, blah, blah, blah!
    I think the more interesting question here is what aspect of her psyche led her to hold back admission of the unrealistic start date until the very last possible second. I have my own answer to the question, of course, but i will leave it to you and others to speculate about that here.
    Personally, I don't care when it stops and starts. It is not worth the money to ride it, in my opinion.

  3. You're right. That is an interesting question. As to the rest. Love the sinner, hate the sin. This is one example where I disagree with her. There are others. That doesn't mean I can't think she's doing a good job on the whole.

  4. How can anyone say she is doing a good job.Go down town and watch the traffic mess.Half the drivers are looking for a parking space and the other half is just trying to get out of Salem. Does anybody believe her dream of cruse ships in Salem? I'm sure people will flock to Salem to see the traffic and the homeless on every corner.The number of homes for sale in Salem is unreal and that number will go through the roof as we near the end of the power plant.How about the transfer station and the love affair between Northside and Salem? If ANYONE tried to operate a business in that condition the city would shut it down. The building is COLLAPSING and residents back up to it to unload debris.Last point,try calling for service (such as sidewalk repair) you will not get a reply and if you keep after them you will be lucky if anything happens before two years.But I'm not bitter.

  5. Things are stretched way too thin and there is not enough money to go around. I'm not at all convinced that Mayor Driscoll has much to do with either the good or the bad things that are going on in Salem. What is happening here is happening in just about every other city in this country.
    Now I want to correct something I said above. I meant to say that G is guilty of "doublethink", not "doublespeak". Sorry George (Orwell)!

  6. I heard someplace that you (Mike Blatty) once ran against Pelletier. If true ,please consider doing so again. His popularity in this city is probably lower than any councilor ever.He is poisoning the council.It's not for me but we deserve better. He tends to bring a clown-like atmosphere to the city.

  7. JP was downright rude and disrespectful to O'Keefe several times at city council tonight.

  8. Not surprising. I was not at the meeting tonight but he is always rude. I hope the details will be forthcoming.Councilor O'Keefe has earned his keep and always acts in a profesional manner as do most of the councilors. Pelletier has NO support in his own ward.Revolt against Pelletier and get him out.

  9. I have never been pleased with JP's representation of our ward on the council. I have thrown my hat into the ring against him 3 times (have never knocked on doors, however, which is a must) with ever-diminishing results. As I have said many times, I do not think it is good for any candidate to run unopposed. If no viable candidate (in JP's case meaning just about anyone) takes out papers against him then I will. Sadly, I don't think the majority of voters in my ward think that it matters who represents them on the council.
    Thanks for asking about it.

  10. MB will of course be the KiKS endorsed candidate in Ward 3. Surely this will guarantee his election. LOL.

  11. About communications on the Ferry Project:

    A few years ago, the Commission on Disabilities met with Sue Cranney, project manager of the bypass road.

    We specifically asked how often we would be able to get updates.

  12. [comment truncated, thanks google]


    Sue Cranney could not give us daily updates.

    Best she could do is what MassDOT (then MassHighway) does. They post updates every two weeks.

    In the life of the Blaney St. project, that's a lot of time.

    I have gone through enough renovation projects at SATV to know that one doesn't really know they're done until they turn the corner--or see the oncoming train in the tunnel.

    I really don't know how many layers there are between Kim and the guys digging on Blaney St. but I am certain she is not out there supervising.

    The real WTF, is even if Kim's office gave minute by minute updates, the Salem News wouldn't run them. Kim's a Democrat. Maybe Kim got Nelson mad or Barbara Anderson's torqued again. When I followed the bypass road project I never ever expected the News to follow it like they had the Salem-Beverly Bridge project.

    I don't expect anything from the News except that they want to be Newsmax Light. So it's not all on Kim's office.

  13. As always, interesting and informative comments from David. Wish he would post more frequently here and elsewhere.

  14. As a former resident, I think some of you at times are too close to the situation to appreciate what seems to be some very good things happening in the city. I visit very little these days while I'm in Florida, but when I return there is always something new and good happening, especially in the downtown. The mayor deserves credit of course, but people sometimes overlook the long-time contributions of councilors who make a big difference. I'm speaking of course of Joan Lovely, who in my view has been as good if not better than any member of that body in the past 50 years.

    Try not to focus on the day to day trivial dramas going on and be happy you have things like traffic and interest in the ferry. It's a good sign.

  15. The last I heard on Blaney St was that paving may begin on June 4. I was on the water June 5,Sunday, and workers were working at the site.I can't see paving starting anytime soon.Mounds of dirt,rocks and many open trenches.My guess is the ferry will not start for at least 3 more weeks. Who pays the overtime to those workers on a Sunday? Most construction workers make double time and a half to work Sunday!

  16. They worked all day both Saturday and Sunday.

    It's a good question on the overtime. I believe it was a fixed bid, which explains why they weren't working overtime to have it done on time. It may be that there are big penalties for delays past a certain date, and it's cheaper for the contractor to pay the OT.

    They are a lot closer to being ready to pave than they were a week ago. A large amount of the debris is gone, and the mounds you see now, while some are big boulders, also include leveling materials like gravel, that will be used to prep for paving.

    I'll try to check it out some more tonight.

  17. Does anyone consider the disruption and inconvenience to the neighbors espescially on Sunday?


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