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Date of Issue: November 18, 2009

Anna Maria pier needs repair, but who pays?

One of the first questions waiting for the new Anna Maria City Commission when it meets Nov. 19 is what to do about the city pier.

An inspection report completed by MTCI Inc. estimated the cost to repair the structure is $176,000-$225,000.

That’s money the city doesn’t have in its contingency fund, although there are sufficient funds in the city’s reserve account.

Who should pay for the repairs might be the optimum question for the commission.

City attorney Jim Dye has maintained that according to the lease agreement with Mario Schoenfelder, the tenant is liable for the entire cost of repairs to the pier. In the past, Schoenfelder has succeeded in having the city share the cost of some repairs, citing difficult economic times.

The MTCI report detailed a host of repair and replacement problems, including corrosion of wooden pilings.

MTCI said the Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the waterways, has lately been resisting the use of creosote material on wooden poles for piers.

Without the creosote, “standard material deteriorates very rapidly,” wrote MTCI. The alternative to creosote is the use of pressure-treated pilings, girders, stringers and decking, which makes the installation cost very high, said MTCI.

Public works director George McKay said it’s also his understanding that creosote-coated wood pilings are no longer accepted materials.

MTCI noted in its report that some repairs recommended in a March report by Bolt Underwater Services Inc. have not been completed.

That report recommended two pilings should be immediately repaired to avoid failure. “Four crutch poles were installed recently, but no other recommended repairs were observed,” MTCI said.

But the pier lease is due to expire in March 2010 and Mayor Fran Barford has already said she’ll adopt a “get tough” policy for any new agreement.

Schoenfelder has leased the pier since 2000, after operators of the Anna Maria Oyster Bar vacated the premises in September 1999, rather than pay a rent increase.

The current lease terms with Schoenfelder, who owns and operates the Rod & Reel Pier, also in Anna Maria, call for an $8,115.12 per month payment to the city.

In December 2008, Schoenfelder asked the commission to lower the rent to $5,000 per month for 12 months, claiming business was down because of the economy. Commissioners and the mayor, however, rejected that suggestion.