‘This pier is a symbol of our city. It’s the first thing people see coming over the bridge. It’s important to all of us.’ — Mayor John Shaughnessy
Bravo TV host Patti Stanger matches single millionaires with their true love for a lifetime partnership on “Millionaire Matchmaker.” Stanger might like the local angle of two government entities finding their way to a similar matchup.
A long-delayed project to restore the Historic Bridge Street Pier will now get a big million-dollar boost from the Manatee County Tourist Development Council.
Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy approached the TDC in early September for assistance after it became apparent that, due to financial constraints, the city would have to eliminate features from the pier.
The city devoted about a $1 million to the project, but did so about two years ago. Since then, delays in the project due to storms, priorities and other factors piled up, while construction prices have risen to the point of having to simplify the design, ultimately changing the pier design.
Some changes being considered were reducing the number of copulas, using less expensive materials that have a shorter life span and, at one point, the city struggled with retaining the T-end of the pier — what some might consider the most important feature for fishing and long walks over the water.
Shaughnessy said the goal of the project was never to enhance the look of the pier, rather to maintain the charm and appearance of a historical symbol of the city.
Meanwhile, the mayor began meeting with members of the TDC and other Manatee County government officials. At an Oct. 21 meeting of the TDC, Shaughnessy was informed that the city would receive matching funds of up to $1 million.
“I was flabbergasted,” said Shaughnessy. “We had $1 million to do the pier and with rising costs, I wasn’t sure if we could do a true restoration of the pier. We started cutting things here and there, but now we don’t have to.”
Shaughnessy said it’s a win-win for the city and the TDC.
“We both have $1 million available for this project, but with the partnership in place, it won’t cost us that much. Say the city puts in $650,000 and the TDC does the same. We both will have money left over.”
The TDC has strict guidelines in allocating tourist development tax funds — the 5 percent tax on accommodations of six months or less. State statutes limit the TDC to investing tax funds in tourist-related projects, of which the pier qualifies.
Once the TDC determined it could assist the city, the process was quick.
“I was surprised that this was put on such a fast track,” said Shaughnessy. “I know how government works and thought this would take awhile, but the TDC was on board with this right away and I’m thankful for that.”
The city can now pursue its original construction plans, and use composite materials that will give the pier a longer life span. The project includes the replacement of 151 pilings, replacing the wooden deck and implementing solar lighting.
More importantly, Shaughnessy said, even though better materials are being used, the “look of the pier isn’t going to change at all. This pier is a symbol of our city. It’s the first thing people see coming over the bridge. It’s important to all of us.”
The city had been frustrated over long delays in a proposed timeline that now is two months past the pier’s projected completion, which was by mid-August.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said Shaughnessy. “If we didn’t have those delays, we would probably have a different looking pier. You can’t imagine how excited I am about this.”
The city has been working on a request for proposal based on the possibility that there would be some design changes. Shaughnessy said it won’t take long to adjust the RFP. “We’ll have it out soon,” he said.