Frustration builds over BB pier construction delays

With $1 million waiting in two bank accounts following an agreement between Manatee County and Bradenton Beach to match funding to reconstruct the Historic Bridge Street Pier, further delays are frustrating city officials.

While the resort tax dollars from the county funds were anticipated — but not yet available — Bradenton Beach officials began setting deadlines for the project that was first projected to be completed in August 2013.

The early delays proved to be a blessing as former Mayor John Shaughnessy laid the groundwork to tap into Manatee County Tourism Development Council funding that eventually removed financial obstacles to the project.

For officials who have been discussing this project for more than two years, however, financial freedom to not only restore, but improve, the pier means delays are no longer acceptable.

Mayor Bill Shearon, who closed out Shaughnessy’s deal with the county, set a six-week deadline in early January for ZNS Engineering to have a request for proposal submitted to the city for approval and subsequent release to bidders. That deadline will expire Feb. 19 and city officials do not know where the RFP stands, other than it is being held up due to a lack of a solar lighting plan.

“We should have the drawings fairly soon,” said building official Steve Gilbert. “We’ve been back and forth with Beacon Products on how to attach the poles for the solar lights. That changes the engineering design.”

The frustration was apparent for Police Chief Sam Speciale, who facilitates the pier team.

“We were told we had six weeks to get this RFP out,” said Speciale. “So, who do we need to point the finger at?”

Mayor Bill Shearon reiterated that Feb. 19 is the six-week deadline.

“The agreement was five weeks for an RFP,” said Shearon. “I suggested and gave an extra week. That was our contract. I expect the contract in six weeks. Period. Ready to go. End of conversation.”

Speciale said there was no excuse for the entire project to be on hold because someone can’t figure out whether a solar panel will be attached to a pole or be placed on the roof of a copula.

Shearon agreed, saying, “I’ll make this real simple. Call Beacon and tell them they either present their plans or maybe we need to look into another lighting company.”

Shearon said Beacon is a quality company, “But if they are going to hold things up, we can start from scratch with somebody else.”

Speciale was equally frustrated with ZNS for its lack of information on the RFP.

“Have they even started it?” he asked.

Gilbert said, “I don’t know.”

That led to further frustration.

“We were told we would have the RFP in six weeks,” said Speciale. “Tell him that he’s working for us. If the lighting needs to say it’s going to be subbed out, then put it in there. Holding this up is unacceptable to us. ZNS told us they were going to do this. They are contracted to do it, they need to get it done and all we hear is, “Well, we still need to do this.’”

Public works director Tom Woodard said a Beacon Products representative was going to make a presentation at the Feb. 6 city commission meeting.

A Beacon Products representative attended that meeting, gave a brief history of the company and its products, but did not present anything resembling a formal plan in relation to the pier project.

Commissioners did not ask questions and the presentation concluded.

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