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City plans to replace pier in 2 years

By Lisa Neff, Islander Reporter

City officials are preparing for a major renovation of the Historic Bridge Street Pier. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

A photograph of the old wooden bridge from Cortez to Bradenton Beach. The Historic Bridge Street Pier is in the footprint of the bridge, which was built in 1922. Islander Photo: Courtesy Sissy Quinn/Anna Maria Island Historic Preservation Trust

When engineers examined the Historic Bridge Street Pier several years ago, they informed city officials that the structure east of the restaurant must be replaced within five years.

The clock has tick-tocked through three years already, Bradenton Beach city commissioners and Mayor Bob Bartelt emphasized last week.

The commissioners and mayor, sitting as the city community redevelopment agency Feb. 16, discussed the pending replacement of the pier, specifically the railings, planks and pilings east of Rotten Ralph’s restaurant.

The CRA has focused in recent months on two projects — improving the beach access and dunes walkover at Bridge Street and Third Street South and expanding public parking between Church and Highland avenues near the public works and police departments.

Construction work will begin March 1 on the Bridge Street dunes walkover and the city lot recently was cleared for the parking expansion.

So last week, the CRA turned its focus to the major task of replacing the pier.

The wooden pier was constructed in the footprint of the first bridge to the Island, a bascule bridge built in 1922, said Sissy Quinn of the Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust.

The wooden bridge was used until the 1950s, when the existing Cortez Bridge was built, added Quinn, who did the research on the pier and secured its Florida Master Site status.

Several years ago, the city completed the renovation of the landside section of the pier, which had been damaged in a storm. The rebuilt portion consists of the restaurant, rest rooms and a bait shop.

Once that project is paid off — in December 2012 in loan payments of about $500,000 a year from CRA funds — the city is likely to invest CRA money to replace the extension used by fishers.

“What’s past the dining room needs to go,” said Mayor Bob Bartelt.

Estimates put the replacement cost at $500,000 to $750,000, depending on the materials used, said public works director Tom Woodard. The highest cost would involve using a more durable composite material rather than wood for the planks.

In the meantime, commissioners agreed, the city should begin saving CRA funds for the project, as well as investigate additional revenue sources.

“We need to have the money,” said Commissioner Janie Robertson. “We need to find it, plan for it, allocate it.”

City clerk Nora Idso said in drafting the fiscal 2011-12 budget, the commission could consider setting aside funding for the pier. “Definitely this year at budget time we can put some toward that,” she said.

Rent paid for the pier concession, about $8,000 a month, goes mainly toward routine pier maintenance and is not viable revenue for the pier replacement, Idso noted.

One additional potential revenue source could be a campaign to sell engraved planks for a new pier, Bartelt said, noting that he had spoken with Islander publisher Bonner Joy about a partnership campaign.

The Islander is working with the City Pier Restaurant to sell engraved, replacement planks on the Anna Maria structure and raise money for a fireworks display during the pier centennial in May.

“I really like the idea,” said Commissioner Gay Breuler. “It does a bunch of things. …Besides bringing in money, it’s advertising.”

Commissioners suggested that Bartelt meet with Joy to further discuss the concept, and find out whether composite planks can be engraved.

Commissioners also agreed to keep the pier project at the top of their priority list.

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