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Bridge Street pier reconstruction inches closer to reality

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Reconstruction of the Bradenton Beach Historic Bridge Street Pier inched a step closer to reality July 25 with a few details of construction drawings being addressed.

Commissioners and department heads gathered for a pier meeting and fielded questions from ZNS structural engineer Glenn Warburton.

While an official budget for the reconstruction won’t be released until a scope of work is presented, city officials have indicated financial limitations are in place and are not to be exceeded.

Warburton presented some possible cost-saving measures, but needed commission input on details such as replacing existing copulas, extending pilings for railing support and whether or not the city wants railings.

Commissioners have discussed whether to keep the three copulas on the pier leading to the T-end pavilion.

Building official Steve Gilbert asked whether the copulas should remain, be reduced or to change the design to a less expensive pergola.

Warburton presented a variety of ideas to save money, such as scaling back the design to a simple box structure.

He advised against extending the pilings up to the railing, saying the pilings would not be able to be installed to exact measures and an additional extension would be needed to provide the added structural support.

“As I’m doing the details, the hand notching to the railings would be somewhat cumbersome,” he said.

The discussion turned back to the copulas where Warburton suggested a less expensive pergola would still provide some shade. The city, he said, could always add a roof at a later time.

Mayor John Shaughnessy said the T-end of the pier was more important and suggested reducing the number of copulas and changing to a less expensive design to put the money into the T-end.

Commissioner Ric Gatehouse agreed, saying the pavilion at the end of the pier is not only necessary, “but gives the city part of its visual impact when people are coming over the Cortez Bridge. It’s more important that we maintain that.”

Commissioners ultimately agreed to reduce the number of shaded structures on the pier walkway from three to two and to change the design from copula to pergolas.

Police Chief Sam Speciale, who is the pier team facilitator, suggested both a copula and pergola design be placed in the request for proposal, noting one contractor may decide he can do a copula for the same price as a pergola.

Commissioners agreed and also discarded the notion to change to the pier’s handrails from wooden rails to ropes, suggested as a cost-saving measure.

Gilbert suggested eliminating wooden handrails also would lower maintenance costs, but commissioners were uncomfortable with potential safety issues.

Gatehouse said ropes will eventually stretch out, “and once they stretch, they become unstable and then we have a liability issue.”

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh asked about the expense of using a composite material for the handrails to cut down on maintenance costs, but Gilbert said composite materials on saltwater have virtually the same life span as treated wood.

Warburton cautioned against losing the pier’s appeal by using different materials.

“As an outside spectator, I notice how charming the pier is because it is wooden,” he said. “It is a fishing pier and my suggestion is to not lose that charm.”

Warburton and Gilbert said they had enough information to finish the drawings. Once the drawings are complete, a request for proposal can be formulated so the city can begin receiving bids on the project.

But reconstruction is already behind schedule.

According to the original ZNS proposal, design plans and a scope of work were expected by the end of April, the bidding process was to begin in May, and construction was expected to start up in early June.

It now appears advertising and bidding may be completed by the end of August. Under the current estimated timetable, construction could begin in September and could take two months to complete.

About five years ago, the pier underwent a renovation project that focused on rebuilding the restaurant and the landside areas of the pier.

That project stopped just east of the restaurant. The new renovation project picks up where the previous project stopped and focuses on the remainder of the pier.

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