Fairlead shipyard may get city help after cleanup goes overtime

Newport News officials called it environmental remediation, but it was just "the big dig" for employees of Fairlead Boatworks and their boss, David Architzel.

Architzel wore a hard hat Monday as he spread his arms to show the roughly 23,500 square feet of city property, leased by Fairlead, that a contractor dug to get rid of an environmentally hazardous chemical. Everything is repaved now at 99 Jefferson Ave., and Fairlead got some extra work space in the end, but not before business was disrupted from October 2016 through this January.

The original dig was projected to be just more than 11,000 square feet, said Everett Skipper, the city's director of engineering.

"You can imagine what it did to this yard," Architzel said. "It shut us down."

The company, on the city's southeastern tip, repairs boats that weigh up to 250 tons. A bulk of its work comes from Defense Department contracts for U.S. Coast Guard and Navy vessels, said Architzel, a 40-year Navy veteran who retired as a vice admiral.

On Monday, the gravel boatyard appeared mostly empty with the exception of a suspended Hampton Roads Transit ferry and a Navy Mark VI patrol boat, covered in blue tarp. A typical day at Fairlead would involve 10 ongoing boat repairs. That day, there were four, and the crew was smaller after five layoffs, he said.

As Fairlead works to recover from the city's dig, the Newport News Economic Development Authority has proposed giving the company a $190,000 incentive grant and a $20,405 break on three....

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