Half of the Bradenton Beach Historic Bridge Street Pier will remain closed until after a renovation project ends sometime in late summer or early fall. Islander Photo: Mark Young
With Bradenton Beach Commissioners Ric Gatehouse and Gay Breuler absent from a July 11 city meeting, the remaining three members on the dais unanimously voted down a request to repair a broken piling that would reopen part of the Historic Bridge Street Pier.
The pier’s eastern half was closed following Tropical Storm Andrea. Two boats, improperly secured in Sarasota Bay south of the pier, struck the pier causing some minor damage to rails, broke a support piling and loosened the center copula.
Staff suggested tearing down the copula since it is scheduled to be removed during the upcoming renovation project and to repair the broken piling, which is scheduled to be replaced during reconstruction in order to reopen the pier.
Public works director Tom Woodard presented a low bid of $3,200 to repair the piling by installing two wood pilings to brace the cracked concrete piling.
Woodard said the cost of the repair would be included in the company’s bid for renovations, but that if another company won that bid, it would not be guaranteed.
The question for commissioners was whether to spend the money to reopen a section of the pier that is due to be closed in the coming weeks.
“My opinion is we already did one of the pilings already with Tropical Storm Debby and now it’s happened again,” said Mayor John Shaughnessy. “With design plans already submitted for the reconstruction, it’s probably going to start in the next two months. Personally, I can’t see putting $3,200 into something we are going to tear down.”
Shaughnessy said the $3,200 would have to be taken from the reconstruction fund, an amount yet to be discussed, and he would rather see the repair money remain in the renovation fund.
“We are offseason now, although it doesn’t seem like it,” he said. “Half of the pier is still open for fishing. The floating dock is open. The restaurant is closed. I can’t see spending $3,200 on a temporary repair.”
Vice Mayor Ed Straight moved to deny the proposal. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Jan Vosburgh and passed 3-0.
In other matters, Woodard said landscaping at city hall would move forward if commissioners didn’t have recommendations or changes to his design plan.
Woodward plans to use only native vegetation, as well as sand, stone and shell.
Shaughnessy said he received complaints about the landscaping that already was removed to make room for the new design.
“We tore out a lot of that because most of it was dead,” said Shaughnessy.
Woodard said it had reached a state where it “Didn’t reflect a professional appearance for city hall.”
Commissioners approved the landscape design.
The city hopes not.
According to city planner Alan Garrett, the cell tower project cannot move forward because the city failed to notify the land-lease holder for the proposed public works cell tower site that gas tanks used to fill city vehicles previously existed there.
An environmental study costing $30,000 is required to conduct drilling tests to check for any leaks that would create an environmental hazard.
Several city officials were asked when the tanks were removed, but no one had a clear idea, saying only it was sometime in the 1970s or 1980s when environmental regulations were more lax than today’s standards.
There is a chance the tanks were removed without the stringent cleanup requirements in place today.
If the environmental study finds evidence of leaks, the costs to remove and haul away contaminated soil could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The company holding the lease has agreed to pay the $30,000 cost for the study, but would consider it a credit toward a pledged $350,000 payment to the city when providers eventually sign a contract to use the cell tower.
City attorney Ricinda Perry said it was the first she was hearing about the proposal and asked commissioners to table the discussion until she could see something in writing regarding the funding.
“Bells are going off when I hear we did not disclose something we should have disclosed,” said Perry. “A lot of issues need to be resolved before commission takes this up.”