Good things come to those who wait.
Gibsonton-based contractor Hecker Construction finished construction of a floating dock for the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach Aug. 1 after two-and-a-half years of turbulence generated by Technomarine Construction, the company originally contracted to build and install the dock.
CRA Chair Ralph Cole, a city commissioner, led a ribbon-cutting ceremony alongside other elected officials Aug. 2 to open the dock for public use.
“We’re all very excited about the floating dock finally coming to fruition,” Mayor John Chappie said in a July 31 interview. “It’s been a struggle, but we’re there, and that’s a good thing.”
The floating dock replaces a dock damaged by a storm and removed in 2017 for public safety. The city also plans to install finger docks at the pier and a boat lift to hold the city’s marine patrol boat for the exclusive use of the Bradenton Beach Police Department.
“It’s been something where we’ve waited and waited almost two-and-a-half years,” Sherman Baldwin, owner of the Paradise Boat Tours that operates from a storefront at the foot of the pier, said in an Aug. 2 interview. “Both as a business owner and as well as the vice president of the Bridge Street Merchants group, this is unquestionably a good day for all of Bridge Street.
Baldwin, who has planned for years to launch a 149-passenger water taxi between the new floating dock, Sarasota and Bradenton, declined to comment on the progress of the water taxi venture.
Eric Shaffer, a project manager from Hecker, said in a July 30 interview with The Islander that workers only had to install the gangway attaching the dock to the pier and put the finishing touches, such as capping piles, on the dock.
Installation of the gangway involved reinforcing the pier before placing sections of the gangway with a crane.
Shaffer said installing the gangway wasn’t included in the scope of services of their contract with the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency — which funded the dock project — but Hecker installed it at no additional cost to the CRA.
“I’m not going to do a change order or something like that, that’s not how our company operates,” he said.
Problems with drift vessels
Boats that break anchor and drift and unattended boars have been a problem in the past despite the efforts of Bradenton Beach Police Officer Eric Hill, who patrols the navigable waters near the pier.
“Just while we’ve been building there have been three or four that have gotten loose and ended up getting stuck on the side of the floating dock,” Shaffer said. “They need to look into that.”
“The floating dock isn’t meant for that, it’s for unloading and loading people onto vessels, not boats smashing up against it,” he continued.
City commissioners met July 31 to discuss repealing and replacing the current city ordinance to allow for more comprehensive regulations, including those for loose vessels that damage the dock.
Lt. John Cosby said BBPD is doing all it can do to regulate the waters, but lacks the ability to enforce the law for derelict vessels on boats that people use as a residence. He said the city should meet with the county to discuss legislative changes to allow the police more enforcement powers.
Other changes the city is pursuing include rewording the definition of a dinghy, limiting the amount of watercraft that can be attached to a main vessel and prohibiting beaching of vessels on public property.
Chappie directed city attorney Ricinda Perry to work with lobbyist David Ramba, and for Perry and Cosby to attend the next Manasota League of Cities meeting to push for legislative changes.
“It’s part of our ongoing effort to improve and clean up the city anchorage area that we have,” Chappie said Aug. 1. “It’s all about any kind of regulations that we may be able to have and use to improve and clean the area, and to make sure rules and regulations are being followed.”