Council Keeps Fulton Shipyard Open

Dissolves Redevelopment Agency

By James Ott

An emotional flood of support from residents will keep the Fulton Shipyard open for the foreseeable future.

City Council members voted unanimously to keep the boat ramp open, after business owners, boaters and long-time patrons rallied to fight the closure of the Fulton Shipyard boat ramp at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Although city council members said they were keeping an open mind, the tide seemed turned against the boat ramp after a previous staff report had all but condemned the 53-year-old facility.

In the report, Antioch Police Capt. Stephen J. McConnell said that police were called to the boat ramp 298 times over the last five years to deal with vandalism, stolen vehicles, drug dealing, drug use and assaults, among other crimes.

The same staff report went onto claim that the ramp is a potential pollution hazard because Antioch’s fresh water intake pipe is right next to ramp. Staff said that phone booths, shopping carts, porta potties and cars have all been sunk into the river nearby, potentially leaking hazardous waste into the city’s water supply.

As if it wasn’t looking bad enough for the ramp, the report also said that the old facility is a threat to the income potential of Antioch’s new Marina ramp, which currently charges a $5 fee for boat launches – something the Fulton Shipyard boat ramp does for free.

Despite the bad publicity caused by the staff report, the public outcry at that previous meeting was enough to postpone the closure until more public opinion was gathered. There were plenty of opinions at last Tuesday’s meeting – not one in favor of closing the ramp.

“I’m down there every single day,” said resident Charles Andrew Waters. “This stuff about these drugs and all this bull—- – it’s a bunch of lies. And as far as the maintenance: you guys don’t come down there and paint and replace the bench tops. It’s the citizens who replaced the bench tops and clean the boat ramp. If you would pay attention, you guys would know that. All I ever see is someone taking out the garbage and leaving.”

While not everyone was as strongly worded as Waters, the city council really responded to the speakers – particularly those that offered potential solutions to some of the issues brought up in the staff report.

“Make it a park,” suggested resident Rick Robinson. “We’ve got a beautiful spot. I’d love to go out there and take my grandkids and have lunch and just hang out. That’s what we grew up doing”

Other suggestions included charging the same $5 boat launch fee for the Fulton boat ramp that is charged in the new marina, closing the boat ramp at night to reduce crime, having a volunteer committee to clean up and police the area, and seeking new grant money to improve the aging facility.

Everyone that spoke seemed to volunteer their time and effort towards any activity that would save the ramp. Business owners in the area, such as Red Caboose restaurant owner, Sheila White, said that they are eager to do all that they can because the ramp’s closure could mean the end of their livelihoods.

“I’m here to talk about my business,” said White. “I’ve been there nine years. My husband and I made a pledge that we would keep our business clean, that we would contribute to our community and that we would keep our [business] area clean. I employ 12 people. Six of them live in Antioch and have no other job. If I can’t generate new customers, I can’t maintain my business. I care about this town – my children live here and my grandchildren go to school here. I want to stay in business – it’s important to my family.”

Many spoke about long-held community ties and fond memories of the Fulton boat ramp. Resident and business owner Bill Morel’s story in particular made an impression on the crowd and the council.

“In 1960 my girlfriend then, my wife now of 50 years, we’re watching the moon dance across the waves when Officer Mandervilt came down with his flashlight tapping on my Chevy, wanting to know what we were doing down there.” he said. “I said fishing but…”

In the end city council members were thoroughly convinced that despite a staff report that gave no reason to keep the ramp open, there were in fact, plenty of reasons to do just that.

“Your passion and your concern is obvious,” said council member Gary Agopian. “I think Antioch benefits from having as many ways to access the Delta as possible. There’s people here who are willing and they’re already doing the work – I’ve seen them picking up the trash and painting the graffiti. The more boaters that get on the river from Antioch the better for us.

“Even though we have evidence of crime, I’m not sure how this breaks down. Since it’s free, I’d encourage people to use the new launch as well but … I’m in favor of … working with the citizens who want to maintain it and ensure the area.”

The council voted unanimously to keep the Fulton Shipyard boat ramp open and to have the city manager create a subcommittee within the next 60 days to handle the boat ramp policies and procedures of operation going forward.

In other business…

In response to the State Supreme Court decision to allow the state to disband redevelopment agencies and use the funds for other state obligations, the council voted to dissolve the Antioch Development Agency, the city’s redevelopment agency and suspend all redevelopment activities with the exception of scheduled payments and current obligations, from previously issued bonds.  Staff pointed out that additional actions will be required of the council in the coming months to comply with the court decision, including deciding whether or not the city will serve as the Successor Agency to manage the winding down of responsibilities of the disbanded agency at the council’s January 24th meeting.

The council also voted to eliminate earthquake insurance for both city hall and the police station, saving the city approximately $124,000 in this year’s budget, because it could not find a policy on the open market from a reputable company at a reasonable cost.

The council voted in support of transferring the State Route 4 Bypass to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to be part of State Route 4 and included in the State Highway system, instead of a locally maintained road as it is currently classified. This was the plan from the beginning, and requires the approval of the Cities of Oakley and Brentwood, as well as the State Route 4 Bypass Authority and Caltrans. In addition, part of the agreement with Caltrans includes that agency turning over control to the cities of the current State Route 4, known as Main Street in Oakley and Brentwood Blvd. in Brentwood.

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