A handful of people enjoy the Historic Bridge Street Pier Dec. 6, but with tourist season building, the pier is expected to be busy. A pier reconstruction project could be delayed until after tourist season. Islander Photo: Mark Young
The old adage, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” could be applied to the effort to begin rebuilding the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach.
The hope was to have the project completed before the upcoming tourist season, but that hope appears to be dashed after an estimated timetable to begin the project was pushed back as far as April.
The project hit a significant snag when negotiations that went on for weeks with Sago and Sago Engineering came to an impass over insurance concerns.
With no appearance of wiggle room from either side of the negotiating table, city attorney Ricinda Perry recommended that commissioners renew the request for proposal several weeks ago to find an engineer.
ZNS Engineering responded to the RFP last month and commissioners authorized contract negotiations to begin. Commissioners questioned building official Steve Gilbert on a new estimated timetable.
Gilbert said the engineering contract was expected at any time and the engineering study would take no more than a couple of weeks, but they were only the first steps in the process.
“We still have to do an RFP for a contractor for the construction once we have the engineering reports. Then we are looking at a 30-day mobilization period,” he said. “So, I’m thinking it’s going to be around March or April before the actual construction begins.”
Peak tourism on the island begins in mid-January and lasts until about May. Commissioner Jan Vosburgh didn’t like the prospect of closing the pier down during season.
“The restaurant is already hurting from the floating dock being closed,” said Vosburgh. “They would really be hurting if we did this during season. I think we should wait until season is over.”
Commissioner Ric Gatehouse also wasn’t thrilled with the potential start date, but no decision was made with so little information.
The reconstruction project’s major components consist of replacing 151 pilings and the wood deck. Exact costs of the project have not been discussed, as the city struggles to get past the initial phase — the engineering study that will determine the scope of work.
The scope of work will then determine what goes in the RFP when the city begins to seek a contractor and pricing for the project.
Floating dock repairs also suffer delays
The floating day dock adjacent to the pier has been closed since May due to a design flaw in the hinges causing the sections to separate.
Tropical Storm Debby’s June arrival caused further damage and ensured an indefinite opening for the dock.
The city has been working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has determined the dock’s damages are related to Debby, thus eligible for FEMA reimbursement.
However, the city plans to modify the dock by shortening it from nine sections to about five and FEMA’s reimbursement hinges on restoring the structure to its original condition.
Because there were design flaws in the dock, FEMA has allowed the city’s plans to move forward and has approved the planned repairs.
Gilbert said, however, a new challenge has surfaced.
“We received Florida Department of Environmental Protection approval, which is something we were waiting on to be signed off,” said Gilbert. “But DEP no longer does the Army Corps of Engineers review of the permitting, so now we have to wait on that approval.”
Gilbert doesn’t anticipate a problem in getting the approval, but “DEP forgot to send our application to the Corps during this separation process between the two agencies.”
Gilbert said the Corps does now have the application and it should be completed in another week or two.
“The good news is that FEMA has approved the project, but the bad news is it has to be resubmitted to them as a formal mitigation project,” cited Gilbert, posing yet another delay. “We’ve put the paperwork together for that.”
Gilbert said FEMA’s approval of the modified dock plan means that the agency will pay 75 percent of the total cost, and because the city’s plans are less expensive than replacing the original dock, FEMA’s reimbursement should be enough to pay for the entire project.
“The holdup is the mitigation paperwork and the Army Corps of Engineers signing off,” said Gilbert. “At that point, we should be good to go.”
Repairs to the floating dock will not impact the fishing pier or the restaurant operations.