Only one hurricane has been known to make landfall on Anna Maria Island.
After a busy year, commissioners in Anna Maria have a lot on their minds, but when it comes to the biggest story of 2017, there’s no dispute: Hurricane Irma.
The early September storm, which brought with it a mandatory evacuation of the entire island and rendered the Anna Maria City Pier “totally destroyed,” left a lasting impression.
“There’s no question, Irma was the big story. Irma in every way,” Mayor Dan Murphy said — in terms of evacuations, power outages, debris removal and the damage it brought to the city pier.
“That was the big hitter,” he said.
Commissioners Carol Carter and Dale Woodland agreed.
“Mother Nature probably trumps everything,” Carter said.
Commissioner Brian Seymour said the damaged pier’s impact will continue to be felt as pier employees in the bait shop and City Pier Restaurant were put out of work by the closure.
In addition to Irma, Murphy said the hiring of a new building official also was a top story for the year. David Greenbaum was selected Dec. 7 to succeed ousted building official Jimmy Strickland.
Strickland was given a unanimous vote of no confidence in November, but the city received a notification in October from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that Anna Maria’s 25 percent discount from the National Flood Insurance Program was at risk due to Strickland’s failure to provide appropriate documentation.
Murphy told commissioners the city responded to FEMA with the required documentation and is now awaiting a decision on whether the city and property owners will retain the discount.
Greenbaum is scheduled to start work in the new year.
“Commissioner Nancy Yetter agreed the hurricane topped news, but she and Seymour both said coming to the end of Anna Maria’s 112 Bert Harris claims was also significant for the city.”
…and hopes for 2018 prioritize the pier
The pier has remained at the forefront of commissioners’ minds since early September, when it was closed to the public, and it doesn’t seem as if the impression will soon change.
Murphy and commissioners agreed a top wish for 2018 was progress on rebuilding and reopening the pier.
Seymour said he hopes to see the pier fast-tracked and re-opened as soon as possible in order to get people back to work.
“That goes without saying,” agreed Woodland. “Obviously, that we get” working on the pier. Woodland said progress appeared stalled on the project.
“When you look back over the last couple of years,” he said, from the city’s original 2015 survey determining that the pier needed to be repaired to the proposals, “we still haven’t made a whole lot of progress.”
However, he said, the pier damage appeared to motivate more people to engage with the community, which he said he hoped could provide momentum in 2018.
“We really need to focus on working diligently to get the city pier back in as close to working order as we can,” Carter said. “I don’t know if it can all happen in 2018, but we need to make progress.”