Anna Maria will look for an alternative use for the 1,000 pier planks on the 800-foot walkway at the Anna Maria City Pier, but it’s possible the planks won’t be repurposed.
At a city commission meeting Nov. 9, Mayor Dan Murphy asked commissioners if they wanted him to get cost estimates for alternatives to preserve the planks instead of just replacing them.
After Murphy announced an estimate the city received for preserving the planks — prying them off the pier, power-washing, de-nailing and storage — came to more than $50,000, commissioners questioned the cost to preserve them.
Commissioner Carol Carter said the city would have other expenses to repair the pier, questioning whether the city wanted to spend funds on preserving the planks.
Plus, Carter added, “when you raise money for capital projects, you don’t promise the donor” that goods constructed from their donation will be there forever.
Murphy also issued a disclaimer to the audience and the public: “The city had nothing to do with (the engraving) program.”
Murphy said the city could not reimburse people for the cost of their planks or identify where someone’s plank is, pointing out the city was not involved in the plank sponsorship and has no information on their location on the pier or the engravings.
The engraving program was a partnership between the tenant, the Anna Maria City Pier Restaurant, and The Islander.
Commissioner Doug Copeland said that based on his experience as a woodworker, he did not see how the planks could easily be refurbished.
“A boardwalk might make sense,” he said, “but if you’re building a boardwalk, why use wood that’s already halfway into its lifespan?”
Commissioner Brian Seymour suggested Murphy look into the option of holding a sort of “open house” event in which people who want a plank could point out their plank. The city then would mark and reserve those planks and destroy the rest.
Murphy asked commissioners to consider the feelings of residents. “There’s a lot of emotion in the emails we receive” about the planks, he said, citing examples of people using the planks to memorialize lost relatives.
“There’s a lot of people looking at us saying, ‘What kind of city are you? Are you compassionate?’” he warned commissioners.
Commissioners concluded that Murphy should pursue options for the pier, particularly for methods of returning planks to those who want them.
Murphy said he would come back in December with more estimates.
In addition, he said, commissioners would meet again with Ayres Associates in December to solidify plans for replacing the pier.
“We’re still in the permitting stage,” he said, pointing out that no details about the physical construction of the pier have been decided on yet.