Bradenton Beach officials say this 30-foot sailboat is the primary culprit in damages to a concrete pier piling at the Historic Bridte Street Pier. Tropical Storm Debby battered the boat against the pier June 25-26. The broken piling forced a closure of the pier that may continue 4-6 months. Islander Photos: Mark Young
A “Do Not Enter” sign greets anyone looking to gain access to the Bradenton Beach Historic Bridge Street Pier, now shut down following damage by Tropical Storm Debby. City officials say the pier may remain closed longer than anticipated, although Rotten Ralph’s restaurant remains open.
Bradenton Beach city commissioners and staff say the Historic Bridge Street Pier may close until a proposed reconstruction project is completed. And the project is likely to take four-six months.
Tropical Storm Debby pummeled Anna Maria Island for three days beginning June 24 and wind and waves sent several boats slamming against the pier.
One boat, a 30-foot sailboat, slammed against the pier’s day dock, and the sustained battering of the pier damaged a concrete piling, forcing the closure.
Two weeks was the expected time line to have the piling temporarily repaired so the pier could open long enough for fishers to have access until the pier reconstruction project begins, with a still undetermined start date.
But now the pier may be closed until the reconstruction project is completed.
The Bradenton Beach city pier team met July 5 for an update on the extent of the damage.
Police Chief Sam Speciale, pier team facilitator, said more than a half dozen boats slammed into the pier during the storm. Three sunk below the pier.
“But the ones that didn’t sink did the most damage,” said Speciale. “The one big issue was the concrete piling at the beginning of the pier. It’s completely broken, so I needed an expert opinion on whether to close down the pier and what needed to be done to reopen it.”
Speciale enlisted the service of Charles Sago, the engineer of record who will spearhead the pier reconstruction project.
“The reinforcing steel was all corroded and the bearing weight might be 3 inches of concrete,” said Sago. “It would not withstand another storm, and if it goes, it could cause that portion of the pier next to the restaurant to collapse.”
The idea was to sling the piling, which Sago said would be enough reinforcement to open the pier to the public, but city staff were unclear on the cost of the repair.
Public works director Tom Woodard said he is waiting for a written cost estimate from two companies, but the ballpark figure is $5,000-$10,000 to fix the piling.
“Commissioners will have to decide whether to go forward with repairs,” said Speciale. “What I want to do is bring the bid to you and then ask: Do we spend upwards of $10,000 to fix the piling, plus the railings, or wait the four to six months to do the reconstruction and leave the pier closed until then?”
Mayor John Shaughnessy said he could not see spending that much money on a piling. “The only thing the pier is being used for is fishing,” he said. “I’m in favor of leaving it closed.”
Commissioner Gay Breuler agreed, saying it would be silly to spend that kind of money on something that is going to be ripped out in a few months.
“We already have all these extra expenses because of this storm,” she said. “I don’t think we should even spend $5,000. It doesn’t make sense.”
Commissioner Jan Vosburgh was concerned about Bridge Street businesses being impacted by leaving the pier and day dock closed, but Woodard said the day dock is a whole different story and would not reopen for some time anyway.
“Originally we were going to shorten the day dock because the beginning sections were fine,” he said. “They aren’t fine anymore. The day dock is not gone, but it needs major repairs. All of the sections are separated now.”
Speciale said the decision for now is to keep the pier closed, but move forward with getting estimates.
“We are going to get all of the information we can and get the commissioners as many options as we can,” said Speciale. “At that time, we can have a special meeting or bring the information to a commission meeting so you can make your decision.”