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ALTON - Nearly $1 million in improvements to the Alton Marina were preliminarily approved by the Alton Committee of the Whole on Monday night. The project includes decking and bracing restoration at a total cost of $958,252.

Marina Manager Rob Honke was among two public speakers at Monday’s meeting who said the work is critically needed as the facility reaches a “crossroads.”

“The Alton Marina is at a crossroads as it approaches its 30th birthday,” Honke said. “Many components of the marina are ending their reliable service spans.”

He acknowledged that the city has helped fund several improvements to the marina over the years, including new equipment and replacement of the main backflow apparatus, water heaters, and more. However, he said “nothing lasts forever, and that applies to the Alton Marina and wood decking.”

The marina’s current wooden decking is beginning to bow and splinter, which Honke said is creating a hazard for visitors - especially the elderly, disabled, and children.

“We’ve also seen several board breaks, with at least one resulting in a claim,” Honke said. “If these hazards are not addressed, you can expect more of this.”

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Honke suggested the new decking be constructed using concrete, rather than wood or composite material. He said when the marina first opened in 1996, wood was still a viable decking material, but lumber quality has since greatly deteriorated and would likely require costly and time-intensive replacement every five years. Instead, he recommended concrete for its longer life expectancy, lower maintenance, and resistance to bowing or splintering at a price point similar to - or sometimes lower than - other proposed materials.

Workers are reportedly ready to begin immediately on the project - while initially estimated to take six months, Honke said weather issues would likely extend that timeline to about a year.

Harbormaster Greg Brown also spoke at the meeting, reiterating the advantages of concrete and emphasizing the marina’s importance as a tourist attraction to facilitate major events like the recent Alton Midwest Nationals Formula 1 Powerboat Race.

“I think the marina, it's a big draw for the city,” Brown said. “A lot of the people we get from … August to up to the middle of November spend quite a bit of money here in town … so it’s good for a lot of people - it’s good not just for the riverfront, but it’s good for our tax revenue as well. It feeds dollars into the city and arguably, I think we could say we could not have had the very successful F1 event without the marina.”

Brown added the facility also provides “water-oriented future opportunities” as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reportedly considering installing a kayaking center in the area.

Stutz Excavating Inc. was awarded the bid for the marina restoration project. The City of Alton is set to fund the project through a variety of sources, including $390,294.06 from Hotel Tax funds, $357,799.60 from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, and $210,158.34 from Food and Beverage Tax funds.

While some concerns were raised as to which city accounts would be used to fund the project, Alderman Raymond Strebel added that Andi Yancey, deputy director of Planning and Development for the city, is actively seeking grants to help offset the costs.

The resolution now goes to the City Council for full approval on Wednesday.

A full recording of the July 8, 2024 Alton Committee of the Whole meeting is available at the top of this story, on the Riverbender.com Facebook page, or on Riverbender.com/video. All Alton Committee of the Whole meetings can also be watched live or on demand on the Riverbender.com Facebook page, Roku app, or YouTube channel.

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