“Our ancestors gave us a pier that lasted a hundred years. I think we should do the same for the next generation.”
So said Commissioner Doug Copeland Oct. 17 regarding which path to pursue in rebuilding the landmark Anna Maria City Pier.
And so they did. The Anna Maria City Commission voted unanimously Oct. 17 to move forward with plans for the rehabilitation of the pier, 100 S. Bay Blvd. The vote was somewhat unexpected, occurring at a special meeting.
The wooden structure already was suffering from wear and tear when Hurricane Irma roared through the area Sept. 10-11, causing major damage to the site that “is” Anna Maria to so many visitors and residents.
On Oct. 17, commissioners listened to Jay Saxena of the city’s contracted engineering firm, Ayres Associates of Tampa, as he narrated a PowerPoint presentation showing costs and time lines for the rehab of the pier, including the restaurant and bait shop at the end of the walkway.
The engineers working with the city of Anna Maria are striving to extend the service life of a new pier while maintaining the historical aspects of the original pier.
Three associates, Christopher Martin, Jan Ash and Hisham Sunna, answered questions and offered detailed explanations in their areas of expertise. Ayres Associates did the initial assessment of the pier’s condition after Irma and found “extensive damage.” They recommended the city close the pier until it could be repaired.
The long-term “75- to 100-year plan” will take 68-82 weeks to complete — from permitting to the day when the public again can stroll the 800-foot-long walkway to the T-end.
Ayres estimates 30 weeks of construction.
Commissioners asked the Ayres team about differences between the “25-to 50-year repair plan” and the “75-to 100-year plan” officials eventually approved.
Saxena compared approving the short-term fix to applying a “Band-Aid” on a big wound.
“It’s like treating the symptoms and ignoring the disease,” Saxena said.
The long-term plan will create what the engineering firm dubbed a “superstructure.”
Existing substructures would be removed and replaced with 18-inch square precast piles and cast-in-place pile caps.
Spans will be 29-30 feet to maintain environmental impact areas and top planks will be placed with quarter-inch spacing to allow light to the area below the pier, encouraging seagrass growth. Estimated cost for substructure phase is $1,014,000.
Lumberlock planking, comprising recycled molded plastic with the color infused, would replace wooden planks, without affecting the aesthetics of the pier, according to Ayres. The planks will never need paint or stain. Fixtures, electrical, utility pipes, framing with corrosion resistant materials and above the deck materials would make up the next two phases of construction, at a cost of about $3,141,000.
Building, including interior finishes, would cost $776,000-$1.1 million.
Special permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies would be required and could take as long as 24 weeks to process, according to the Ayres team.
Commissioner Dale Woodland questioned the “superstructure” long-term build during the presentation period, wondering if a shorter, less expensive rehab would help pier and restaurant workers return to their livelihoods faster. In the end, Woodland also voted “yes” to moving forward with the long-term fix.
Mayor Dan Murphy, when discussing possible funding sources, said relief money made available after Irma would definitely assist with paying the check for the new pier.
Saxena said the state historical resources office would be consulted during the permitting process to understand what, if any role, it might have, in response to Commissioner Carol Carter’s question about the historical nature of the pier.
“Our pier is not registered as a historical building,” Murphy said.
Murphy said they considered a historical designation because of the associated grants but, to accomplish that, there could be six months of lead time. “I don’t think that’s what we want,” Murphy said.
Ash explained that as long as the building is not deemed historical, the rebuild doesn’t have to meet the criteria of a restoration.
“If it is an historical building, a lot of other regulations come to play with respect to restoration,” Ash said.
As for the 1,000 or so engraved planks currently on the pier walkway, the disposition remains up in the air. Current plans call for the walkway planks to be removed and stored.
Commissioners agreed the planks have “sentimental” value to islanders and should be repurposed into a memorial or display.