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BB pier team temporarily suspends multiple meetings

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

A fisher works his catch at the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach. The railings have been freshened up with new paint as the city maintains a holding pattern on the pier reconstruction. Islander Photo: Mark Young

The Bradenton Beach city pier team doubled its scheduled meetings last fall with expectations high that a reconstruction project was close to getting started.

Contract negotiations, stalled by insurance concerns with Sago & Sago Engineering led to the city authorizing a request for proposal to find a new engineering firm for the project.

Sago & Sago had been awarded the work based on its service on a previous project.

In November, commissioners authorized the RFP and, last month, ZNS Engineering’s bid was approved by commissioners, but contract negotiations continue with ZNS.

“I expect we should hear something soon,” building official Steve Gilbert told the pier team Jan. 3.

In the meantime, the pier team suspended its semimonthly meetings in favor of returning to monthly meetings until the project can move forward.

The project will consist of replacing 151 pilings and the pier’s wood deck.

Police Chief Sam Speciale asked for the team’s consensus, saying there is no reason to double the meeting schedule until the reconstruction work is ready to begin and the committee agreed.

“We started doing the second meeting because we were getting ready to roll on this project,” he said.

The pier team resumed regular business of the Historic Bridge Street Pier with mostly maintenance updates. Public works director Tom Woodard said maintenance issues were minor.

“Things are looking pretty good at the pier,” he said. “Haven’t had any major issues. Some of the rope lights we put up by the clock tower went out, so I unplugged them all until I can get a lift in there and replace the bad ones.”

Woodard said it was unsightly with only half the lights working, but wanted the pier team members to know he was working on the problem.

“We have also done some regular maintenance to the pier, such as painting the railings and picnic tables,” he said.

Woodard said the replacement of the adjacent floating dock “remains in a holding a pattern, so the dock is still closed. We’ve had to run a few people off. Someone had parked a 53-foot yacht against the dock and people were climbing all over it.”

Gilbert said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection approved the floating dock repairs, but there is a new step to take in obtaining permits.

“We are still waiting on the Army Corps of Engineers,” he said. “We also haven’t heard back about FEMA redoing the paperwork. We turned all that in the second week of December to change it from replacement to mitigation.”

Gilbert said the Eighth Street South dock project also has been approved, but the city continues to wait on approval from the corps.

Corps approval is a recent obstacle to the delays. Gilbert said last month that DEP is no longer reviewing corps permits, so the process now has an additional agency to go through before permits are approved.

“Hopefully we will know something in the next week,” he said.

Gilbert questioned whether a new Eighth Street South dock would come under the overview of the pier team, “since it is being designed as a fishing pier.”

Speciale said it would be outside the reason the pier team was formed. He said only the Historic Bridge Street Pier, the floating dock and the dinghy dock across from the Bridgetender Inn and Dockside Bar were to remain under the guidance of the pier team.

The floating dock was closed early last year due to separating dock sections and damaged ballasts. A design flaw in the dock’s hinges was discovered as the culprit, but as the city made plans to replace the hinges, Tropical Storm Debby’s arrival in June damaged the dock further.

The dock replacement project was approved by FEMA due to storm damage, but the city wanted to continue with plans to modify the dock’s size. It will be reduced from nine sections to four or five, depending on the damage assessment when the work begins.

That decision is why it has gone from a replacement project to a mitigation project, which requires additional approval.

Commissioners wanted to have the pier project completed before tourist season, but recent discussions at city meetings now have commissioners discussing delaying the project until after tourist season.

The dock replacement, when approved, will not infringe upon pier operations. The city will move forward on that project when final approval is given. FEMA funding for the dock project already has been pledged.

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