In a fact-finding meeting Dec. 4, Anna Maria commissioners gave Ayres Associates direction on the future of the Anna Maria City Pier.
Some people made their case for wood decking and pilings, while others wanted to weigh the benefits of concrete construction.
Jay Saxena, vice president of Ayres Associates southeast operations, told commissioners Ayres is in the process of working with agencies to complete permit applications to rebuild the structure.
Ayres is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
At a meeting Oct. 16, commissioners voted to build a pier with a 75- to 100-year life span.
Saxena presented commissioners with options developed thus far, including the proposed use of concrete piles and concrete-filled steel piles.
However, commissioners and the public asked about using wood instead.
Commissioner Carol Carter asked if timber pilings were an option for a 75-100 year life span.
“The service life is not 75 years,” Saxena replied.
“Some may last that long, but from a design perspective,” timber pilings would not be appropriate, he said. Wood might last 75 years, but it would be more expensive to maintain.
“I’ve seen concrete used around here,” said Commissioner Dale Woodland. “Our bridges were built in the ’50s and ’60s using concrete and none of them have lasted.”
Holmes Beach resident Mitch Perdue agreed there are examples of concrete that have not worked, while wood has lasted. “Let’s do it the old-fashioned way,” he said.
Anna Maria resident Dennis Ellsworth said the only reason the pier is in peril is because the city failed at maintenance.
“I think you need to ride down the road from the city pier. We have another pier down there. It’s been there 70 years. It’s made out of wood. And that’s individually maintained,” he said, referring to the Rod & Reel Pier on North Bay Boulevard.
Saxena, however, continued to caution.
“Familiarity versus structural design, those are two different components,” he said. “We also want to make sure we design this from a safety perspective to meet that 75-year requirement.”
Sissy Quinn, president of the Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust, pointed out, “There isn’t a toothpick left of that original pier.”
Quinn told the commission the only requirement for the pier to retain its historical designation is that it retain the original footprint.
Saxena said this is a “key component” in rebuilding the pier, because the permit process would take much longer to expand the pier footprint.
“Don’t be concerned. Let the city go ahead and do what’s best for the city,” Quinn said.
Holmes Beach resident Nancy Deal, however, showed up with a list of questions about the project.
“Are the pilings driven into the sand until refusal, is that true? Have all pilings failed or just some? Is it possible to re-mediate only the pilings that failed, do all require replacement?” she asked.
Deal listed her questions, asking if there is physical evidence, such as photos or videos, documenting the need for repairs, and whether experts dug underneath the pilings for their assessments.
She also asked whether the damage assessment was based on engineering judgment or physical evidence, whether loading structures would change and whether Ayres calculated the most cost-effective plan before issuing recommendations.
Mayor Dan Murphy asked Deal to submit her questions to city hall. “We’ll get you answers to every question you’ve got and be glad to make that part of the public record,” he said.
“People come to the pier because it represents a bygone era,” Quinn said. “We want to sustain and preserve that atmosphere, that culture, that structure as it was. We want our pier back.”
Murphy said in the next meeting with Ayres, the city would discuss specific options, and the related costs and benefits. However, he said, no date has been set yet for such a meeting.
In a 2015 study, the city pier was found to be badly in need of repair. The city was in the process of seeking bids to engineer repairs when Hurricane Irma passed Sept. 10-11, leaving the structure further damaged.
Murphy said it was “totally destroyed” according to the terms of the city’s lease with Mario Schoenfelder.
Schoenfelder has not responded to requests for comment.