Islanders, tourists, merchants restless for BB dock solution

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Sherman Baldwin, owner of Paradise Boat Tours, which operates from his bait shop at the foot of the Historic Bridge Street Pier, gazes March 9 toward the water. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Islanders are getting restless, not to mention the visitors and tourists.

Count among them the business owners waiting to capitalize on increased traffic.

A new floating dock adjacent to the Historic Bridge Street Pier — a replacement for a damaged dock — was approved by the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency in March 2017, but is yet to be seen.

As with the old dock, the new dock will provide boater access to the restaurants and businesses on the pier, and along Bridge Street and Gulf Drive.

And no floating dock during tourist season means fewer customers for those businesses.

The city received schematics March 7 for the dock from contractor Technomarine of West Palm Beach and the most recent schedule states Technomarine will “mobilize into the site” March 19, with dock delivery planned for March 26.

Initially, Technomarine representatives said work on the dock would begin September 2017. The company received the city’s deposit of $29,995 April 2017, but cited hurricane Irma as the cause for delay.

Anna Maria Oyster Bar owner John Horne said March 8 that he’s fortunate his restaurant on the pier is busy, but if the dock is not completed by April 30 — the currently slated final inspection date — summer business could suffer.

“People love to come here and make an afternoon of it, but now they can’t pull up on their boats,” Horne said. “It also helps keep traffic down on the island when people don’t have to use their cars.”

However, Horne said, he’s aware the dock is not part of his lease and acknowledges that “everyone is working together to get this matter resolved.”

Sherman Baldwin, owner of Paradise Boat Tours, which operates from a storefront sub-leased from Horne at the foot of the pier, relied on the floating dock for his pontoon boat tours, and his plan to launch a 149-passenger water taxi is dependent on the new dock.

Baldwin said his only hold up for the water taxi, planned to run between downtown Bradenton, Bradenton Beach and Sarasota, is the floating dock.

“The irony is the Bradenton Beach location was the first and easiest step in the process and now it’s the one holdup,” he said.

According to Baldwin, the boat is ready to launch, but will not be released by lenders until the three dock locations are cleared for use by all three cities.

In light of previous delays, Baldwin says he doubts the dock’s timely arrival.

“The Sarasota-Bradenton Ferry Inc. has to live in the world that this thing isn’t happening this year at all,” Baldwin said. “I’m unable to assess the ramifications of my financing, but it certainly stresses the situation.”

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, who chairs the city pier team that vetted the contractor, said March 7 the business owners who use the public dock need to remember the floating dock is public, and while it supports their businesses, that is not the dock’s sole purpose.

“I know it’s frustrating for the business owners that benefit from the dock, but it’s not just theirs,” Speciale said. “The contractor has provided plans and a schedule, so we should be moving forward.”

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