Duncan Seawall employees put the finishing touches on the Eighth Street South dock in Bradenton Beach June 12. The dock is open again after more than two years of closure. Islander Photo: Mark Young
When a group of residents on Eighth Street South in Bradenton Beach volunteered to pay for a new city dock at the end of their street more than a year ago, it appeared a viable solution to a shortfall in the city budget.
The city condemned the dock more than two years ago with a promise to rebuild it, but an economic downturn and a tightening budget left the dock as a low priority.
Residents stepped forward to pool their money to have the dock rebuilt, leaving city staff with the task of beginning the permitting process, which appeared on the surface to be a relatively simple process for a relatively simple project.
But “relatively simple” are words that don’t exist when doing a project on a barrier island, according to building official Steve Gilbert.
Once the funding was in place, Gilbert began the permitting process with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
DEP approved the rebuild, but a change in the state agency’s policies to no longer review federal permits for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers added an additional layer of permitting for the city.
Once DEP informed the city that it would be required to submit additional paperwork to the corps, Gilbert did so the same day, but the delay was only the beginning.
The Tampa regulatory office first informed Gilbert in January that it was suffering a staff shortage and that a permit review for the Eighth Street dock was a low priority.
By mid-February, the Tampa office informed Gilbert it had resolved its staffing issues, but said the “relatively simple” project of removing old pilings and replacing them with new ones would have to undergo a full regulatory review.
Gilbert told the corps he didn’t understand the reasoning for the project to undergo a full regulatory review, but submitted the necessary paperwork given the project’s “simplicity.”
Given the city’s concerns, Gilbert was informed that the dock’s permitting process would be “accelerated” and the project was advanced to a high-priority category.
To ensure its “accelerated” status, Gilbert invited the corps to meet with city staff to conduct a site inspection in early March and that meeting took place as scheduled.
In late March, Gilbert contacted the corps for an update of the dock’s status and was told, “Good question.”
It was explained that the corps was in the process of prioritizing private projects and that government projects would begin soon.
In mid-April, the city again contacted the corps for an update. In a series of email correspondence between Gilbert and the Tampa office, the corps explained the permitting process for government projects had not yet begun.
The corps said, however, the Eighth Street dock was still a high priority.
It took about another 45 days for the corps to notify the city that a permit review was underway and, a few days later, the much-anticipated permit had been issued.
Duncan Seawall’s work to the dock was expected to be completed by Islander press time. The dock stretches 60 feet into Sarasota Bay with a walkway 5 feet wide leading to a 400-square-foot fishing platform.
Gilbert said it had been a long time coming and he was pleased the dock is completed.
“It was one of several projects that have been on backlog, but not by the city’s doing,” said Gilbert.
The floating dock adjacent to the Historic Bridge Street Pier took more than a year of red tape from the Federal Emergency Management Agency following Tropical Storm Debby in June 2012. It was completed in early June.
However, between the residents of Eighth Street South and FEMA, two major projects are now completed at no cost to city taxpayers.
The dingy dock next to the Bridge Tender Dockside Bar and Inn, also destroyed by TS Debby, was another FEMA-funded project that was completed earlier this year.
One of the last major projects on the city’s backlog list is the renovation of the pier. That project is scheduled to be completed by the end of August, although only beginning the permitting process.
Gilbert said he expects no delays given the simplicity of the project that will replace 151 pilings and the wood deck. However, “simple” didn’t work out to the benefit of the Eighth Street dock and Gilbert is making no promises when it comes to a timetable for permits.
ZNS Engineering, the firm of record for the pier project, is handling the permitting process.
A scope of work on the pier is expected at a city commission meeting in the near future. The cost of the pier project has not yet been discussed pending a final submission of the scope of work.
At that time, commissioners are expected to authorize a request for proposal and begin taking bids for the pier reconstruction work.