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Date of Issue: March 11, 2009

County approves new Manatee Public Beach pier


Holmes Beach is going to get a new public pier.

 Manatee County commissioners at their March 3 meeting unanimously approved a proposal by county natural resources director Charlie Hunsicker to replace the existing structure at Manatee Public Beach with a new pier that will by 7.5 feet higher than the current structure.

The old pier will be demolished and the new pier will stand about 15 feet above the mean high-water line, according to a study Hunsicker presented. The pier will have a gradual incline ramp at its entrance.

The commission rejected an option by Hunsicker to build a new pier on top of the existing structure. An option the commission did not consider was to not replace the pier.

The pier has been closed since late February, when an engineer’s report deemed it was unsafe for public use.

 Hunsicker estimated construction costs for a new pier at $1.5 million, while planning and permitting fees should add about $100,000 to the total.

The Manatee County Tourist Development Council will fund $1.4 million, said Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who also serves as chairperson of the TDC. The remainder will come from county funds.

 County engineers also will look at the cost of extending the pier another 120 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, Whitmore said. Commissioners, however, did not appear to favor an extension because of the anticipated added cost, Whitmore indicated.

 Hunsicker estimated it will take about two weeks to get a permit application submitted and another 90 days or so to get an initial response. The application must be submitted to both the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Hunsicker said the entire permitting process will take about four to five months to complete, with another four to six months for construction. “Right about January is when it should be done,” he said.

The natural resources department is recommending that the additional 120 feet be added to the pier if financing is available, he said.

 “We won’t recommend something we can’t afford, but the mobilization effort will already be in place.”

 Construction of the additional footage will not be as expensive as waiting another 10 years, then starting the permitting, mobilization and construction process again, Hunsicker indicated. The additional footage would “hopefully provide a pier for another 50 years” for Manatee County, he predicted.

Since the landmark pier closed in February, tourists and residents have complained that they have no pier on the Gulf of Mexico for walking, enjoying sunsets or fishing.

 Whitmore said she understood their frustration, but the safety issue overrode keeping the pier open.

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said he thought replacing the pier with a new structure at the same height as the current pier (7.5 feet) would have given “the best dime for the buck,” but accepted the commission decision.

“It’s their choice. At least we’ll have a new pier, and it’s important that we have that recreational facility for tourists and residents alike,” he said.