There’s a big boating holiday on the horizon.
But people planning to berth their boats Memorial Day weekend at the Historic Bridge Street Pier may be disappointed.
The new floating dock at the pier, a replacement for a storm-damaged dock, was approved by the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency in March 2017 but a year has passed and the dock is still awaited.
The floating dock allows boaters to easily unload passengers no matter the tide — high or low — to access the tall deck of the pier.
The latest schedule provided by contractor Technomarine of West Palm Beach to the city April 5 provides for completion of the dock June 29.
This is the fourth schedule provided by Technomarine since the March 2017 approval.
Additionally, the contractor submitted photos of boxes with shipping labels indicating they are dock parts sent from Ronautica Marinas of Spain. The foreign manufacturer was never discussed between the CRA or the city and Technomarine.
Initially, Technomarine representatives said onsite work on the dock would begin in September 2017. The company received the city’s deposit of $29,995 in April 2017 and another payment of $23,996 in August 2017.
In October 2017, then-Technomarine employee Ben Talbert wrote in an email to pier committee chair Police Chief Sam Speciale that the docks were in production and would “ship in a few weeks.”
Then, in December 2017, Technomarine director of operations Anna Bennett cited a “ripple effect in the industry” caused by a busy hurricane season as cause for the delay.
Another schedule was provided in February specifying Technomarine would “mobilize into site” by March 23 with completion by April 30.
At the April 4 Bradenton Beach pier team meeting, Speciale said he received calls from other contractors interested in building the dock, but he said he won’t speak with them while under contract with Technomarine.
He said he is frustrated with the delays and lack of communication, but if the CRA — the agency with oversight in the historic district — opts to have the city attorney draft a letter to Technomarine, the company likely will cease communication with the city and stop work on the dock.
“If we lawyer up, they won’t talk to us anymore,” Speciale said April 4.
Sherman Baldwin, owner of Paradise Boat Tours, which operates on the pier per a lease with Anna Maria Oyster Bar, relied on the previous floating dock for his boat tours.
He is planning to launch a 149-passenger water taxi between Bradenton Beach and downtown Bradenton and Sarasota locations, which is dependent on the new dock.
According to Baldwin, the boat is ready to launch, but will not be released by lenders until the dock locations are cleared for use by all three cities, and Bradenton Beach is the stumbling block.
He said in light of the previously unfulfilled schedules, he is skeptical the dock will be ready by the end of June.
And, he said, he stands to lose the venture he has been working on for more than two years.
“If my bank and investors don’t believe I can be running for the 2019 season, they will pull out,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin said, pending commission approval, he plans to hire and pay a contractor to determine if he can run his water taxi from the gangplank that connects the pier to the floating dock.
The gangplank is still in place on the south side of the pier.
At a CRA meeting following the April 4 pier team meeting, the board voted to direct Cole, with the attorney’s assistance, to write a letter to Technomarine president Jat Talton regarding the company’s progress.
“Hopefully we can just get a dock without a legal battle,” Cole said.
In the letter to Talton April 5, Cole said the dock is part of a long-term plan to expand the pier facilities for boaters and bring more tourism to the area — a project for which Technomarine could submit a bid.
Additionally, Cole requested the deadline be moved to June 1 to avoid hurricane season.
“In January 2017, we anticipated that the project would have been completed last year, but understandably the 2017 hurricane season caused delays all around the state and we would like to avoid those problems this year,” Cole wrote.
“I want to think this is a legitimate company that just got behind because of matters out of their control,” Cole said April 5. “I’d rather go the high road and encourage them to come through for us. At this point, it’s all we can do.”