Lang criticizes mayor

By AARON NICODEMUS, Standard-Times staff writer

This article appeared on September 15, 2005 in the Standard Times
NEW BEDFORD — Scott Lang, a candidate for mayor, is criticizing Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr. for allowing the pilings and fender system along the South Terminal waterfront to deteriorate.

“Despite repeated requests from the fish houses and fishing vessels, the Kalisz administration has ignored the industry and neglected the South Terminal’s dangerous condition for several years,” Mr. Lang wrote in a prepared release. “This follows a pattern by Mayor Kalisz of neglecting the city’s streets, neighborhoods, school system, crime problem, and in this particular case, the city’s number one industry.”

Mayor Kalisz acknowledged that the piling and fenders at South Terminal need to be repaired and said his administration has hired an engineer to determine what needs to be done and how much it will cost.

He said the allegation made by Mr. Lang that he is neglecting the fishing industry’s concerns is not true, and that Mr. Lang is “twisting the facts for his own political gain.”

He alleged Mr. Lang is making, “outrageous accusations based on erroneous information.”

The pilings and fenders in question are what fishing vessels rub against as they unload their catch into the fish processing plants along Hassey Street. A quick look at the area reveals that the pilings and fenders are significantly damaged: metal reinforcement rods sticking out at odd angles from the concrete bulkhead where fenders are supposed to be, and most of the wooden fenders splintered and shredded.

The city owns the pilings and fenders, but is dependent on state funding for the bulk of the repairs.

John Simpson, executive director of the Harbor Development Council, said the city has been pursuing state funding for two years. When the North Terminal fenders were repaired last year, the state contributed 75 percent of the cost, the city 18 percent, and Maritime Terminal, a freezer business, 7 percent. He said a similar arrangement could be put together to rebuild South Terminal.

“We haven’t ignored the problem, we’ve been focused on getting the funding for it. We’re looking forward to making repairs,” he said.

Harvey B. Mickelson, an attorney who represents a number of fish processing plants in South Terminal, wrote in an Aug. 15 letter to Mayor Kalisz: “It is common knowledge that this condition has existed for a long time. The damaged areas are deteriorating rapidly while causing some serious damage to some fishing vessels unloading their catch.”

Mr. Mickelson said he and his clients have been attempting to have the city address the issue for more than two years. He noted in his letter that none of his clients, which include Northern Wind Seafood and Tichon Seafood, have been contacted.

Mr. Mickelson said he received a response from the mayor on Aug. 29. The letter said an engineering study is under way and someone from the administration would meet with processing plant owners in two weeks’ time.

But Mr. Mickelson is unconvinced that there is an action plan. “This is the kind of situation that doesn’t get any better, it only gets worse,” he said. “It might lead somewhere, but that remains to be seen.”

Mr. Lang said the issue shows the mayor is “out of touch with the priorities of the business community. Interestingly, as the election grows closer, the mayor is scurrying to begin projects which have long been neglected. The South Terminal pier reconstruction is one project that he should begin immediately.”