The familiar sight of Historic Bridge Street Pier closures will continue through a delayed renovation project. Islander File Photo: Mark Young
“I’m not sure when I will get confirmation, but it is looking fantastic. I’m so excited that I can’t sleep at night.” — Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy
There’s been a lot of bad news when it comes to the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach, but good news is emerging on the horizon.
Visitors, residents and fishers who enjoy the pier have endured a lot in the past 18 months, ever since Tropical Storm Debby arrived in June 2012, breaking anchored boats nearby in Sarasota Bay loose and crashing them into the pier.
Wave action from Debby damaged the adjacent floating dock beyond the city’s ability to make repairs and the pier remained closed for a few days. But the floating dock remained off limits for a year before Federal Emergency Management Agency funding was released to repair it.
Within days of a celebratory re-opening of the floating dock, Tropical Storm Andrea arrived and, while the floating dock remained intact, more boats crashed into the pier, closing the outer half of the structure.
Andrea’s outer bands brushed the island in early June 2013 and the pier remained closed. The damage to the pier was fixable, but with a planned reconstruction project looming, the city held off on repairs and funding for what was thought then would soon be rebuilt.
However, the reconstruction project that was scheduled to be completed in August, according to a ZNS Engineering timeline, has yet to begin.
As 2014 looms and tourist season builds, city officials are hopeful a request for proposals will be drafted soon, allowing bidding on the project to proceed, likely not until November. That puts the construction timeline into the spring.
At the Oct. 3 city pier meeting, Police Chief Sam Speciale, who facilitates the pier team, said he hopes to see the RFP out “as soon as possible.”
Building official Steve Gilbert said the RFP will include bidding to install 152 pilings and a bid for the wooden deck replacement and pavilion reconstruction.
The city also will seek optional bids for using upgraded materials, such as composite decking and pressure-treated creosote pilings that have a longer life span, as well as upgrading shingles to metal on the copula roofs.
The city also would like to have 15 additional pilings installed to act as buffers to wayward boats during storm events.
Due to budget restraints, the initial design called for the elimination of two of the three copulas, but the city now will seek bids to restore them all.
Any proposed upgrades, however, go beyond the city’s estimated $1 million budget for the pier.
But that’s where good news comes in, a positive light on the pier’s future after 18 months of ongoing problems.
Mayor John Shaughnessy recently approached the Manatee County Tourist Development Council for funding. State statutes limit what the TDC can fund, but tourist-related projects are encouraged and the pier appears to qualify.
The pier ranked high among Manatee County attractions in many surveys of visitors to the area by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor Bureau.
Shaughnessy said he wanted to plant a seed with the TDC, the funding agency for the BACVB, and expected the process to take some time. He has been pleasantly surprised with the quick response.
He met with BACVB’s Elliot Falcione and Manatee County administrator Ed Hunzeker within a few weeks. “We sat down and talked about it,” said Shaughnessy. “I’m still not at liberty to discuss how much the TDC is willing to contribute until it’s verified.”
Shaughnessy had another meeting scheduled, after Islander press time, but said he has been assured his request has been put on the “fast track and everyone is being very cooperative.”
Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, also the TDC chair, told Shaughnessy that a vote is coming soon and it looked favorable that the TDC would help the city with funding.
“I’m not sure when I will get confirmation, but it is looking fantastic,” said Shaughnessy. “I’m so excited that I can’t sleep at night.”
The commissioners are first required to provide authorization for city attorney Ricinda Perry to review the RFP. That is likely to be an agenda item for the city’s Oct. 17 meeting.
Once Perry reviews the RFP, it will come back before the commissioners for approval, who won’t meet again until early November.
Expectations are high to have the RFP out soon after that approval and for the city to begin taking bids for the pier project in November.