Tag Archives: 05-15-2019

Brown ‘gumbo’ algae invades island

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Another bout of brown algae returns to Key Royale Drive May 6 at 65th Street in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Christine Wright
Brown algae blankets the Key Royale canal at 65th Street during the last week of March and first week of May. Islander Photo: Christine Wright
A closeup May 9 shows the fiberous sheath of oblong-shaped algae at 66th Street. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

“People call it gumbo,” Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth said May 9.

At the end of April and beginning of May, pad-like algal blooms pushed into waters around Anna Maria Island, hung around for about a week and receded.

But then the unwanted visitor came back strong and stinky.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection began testing May 9 in Holmes Beach to determine the toxicity of the large brownish oblong algae mats.

The DEP collected samples from two Holmes Beach locations — bayside at 26th Street and the canal north of Westbay Point & Moorings, 6500 Flotilla Drive.

Also May 9, DEP spokeswoman Weesam Khoury would not speculate on why the bloom was occurring and did not know when testing results would be made available.

The samples will be analyzed in Tallahassee for toxicity and algal type.

Similar testing from Lake Okeechobee, along the Calaloosahatchee River to Fort Myers, has been performed in the past month. And, in places, whitish mold has grown on the brown pads.

As to why sites were chosen, she said there were several reports from Charlotte County to Manatee County that prompted testing for six types of “microcystins,” including toxic cyanobacteria, known as the blue-green algae, and three other toxins.

“Residents and visitors are always advised to avoid coming into contact with algae and to stay out of the water where a visible bloom is present,” Khoury said in a May 9 email, adding the DEP will monitor and retest persistent blooms.

In Sarasota County, the DEP identified Lyngbya wollei, a large diameter cyanobacteria with the same thick sheath and dense mats, according to Stephannie Kettle, of Mote Marine Laboratory.

Lyngbya nuisance blooms are known to degrade water quality, damage beaches and shorelines, cause skin irritation, reduce biodiversity and impair habitat and food webs. “Mote doesn’t work with this type of algae,” Kettle said.

Mote, as well as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, research and monitor another algae, Karenia brevis, also known as red tide, which pushed into southwest Florida in high concentrations between August 2017 and January 2019, causing massive fish kills and deaths of manatees, dolphins and other marine animals and birds in the hundreds.

The current algae is not red tide.

Also testing the water in May was the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, a branch of the FWC.

Spokeswoman Kelly Richmond said volunteers sampled locations at the Rod & Reel Pier May 6 and School Key, known as Key Royale, May 1.

Results from the FWRI testing showed no harmful algal blooms, she said. Volunteers will continue sampling the water and may add other test locations.

Although the stench improved and no HABs were identified on Anna Maria Island the second week of May, some people living near the algal blooms expressed their disgust.

“Last week, after it sat in the sun, it was really strong. Like sewage. Even inside our house,” Holmes Beach resident Christine Wright said May 9.

Titsworth agreed, “People are hating it.”

She has asked Barney Salmon, the city director of development services, to research the outbreak.

“I firmly believe it comes from too much nutrients,” the mayor said, adding “It happens a lot.”

Reporting blooms

The DEP encourages the reporting of alga blooms to its hotline at 855-305-3903 or online.

Florida legislative session ends, home rule threats fail

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The Florida Capitol Complex in Tallahassee. Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach hired lobbyists to protect their home-rule authority and officials expect to have to do the same in 2020. Islander File Photo: Bonner Joy

By Ryan Paice and ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
Islander Reporters

You could call it a dud.

Anna Maria Island officials breathed a collective sigh of relief with the end of the 2019 Florida legislative session.

Each of the three island cities lobbied to oppose two sets of bills seen as threats to home rule, including Senate Bill 824 and House Bill 987, as well as House Bill 1383 and Senate Bill 1720. The four bills failed by the time session ended May 4.

And Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach could receive funding from the state, if the cities’ requested budget items are signed by the governor.

Anna Maria requested $285,000 from the state toward the construction of the Anna Maria City Pier. Carter said the city requested funding to help make up for money promised but not delivered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The city requested $1,829,903 from FEMA under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act for the new pier, but city commissioners voted in August 2018 to accept a $1,372,427.50 offer from FEMA.

The act provides a means for municipalities to request federal natural disaster assistance, including money for the repair, restoration or replacement of damaged facilities.

Anna Maria’s request was pending the governor’s approval as of May 9.

Three Bradenton Beach appropriations projects, totaling $5,694,248, also made the final cuts in the state legislative budget.

Pending the governor’s signature, the city will receive $500,000 for seagrass mitigation, $2,694,248 for flood prevention efforts and $2,000,000 for a transportation program.

Home rule, vacation rentals

HB 987 would have revised application requirements for vacation rental licensure, as well as require the Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to post license information on its website.

Following approval from several subcommittees, the bill was placed on the calendar for consideration April 17, but died for lack of action May 3.

Anna Maria Commissioner Carol Carter said in a May 8 interview with The Islander that state Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, helped muster opposition to the bill, while state Sens. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, opposed the companion legislation.

HB 987’s companion bill, SB 824, was filed by state Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Haileah, and referred to the Committee of Innovation, Industry and Technology in February, but was not considered during the committee’s March 26 meeting.

Diaz’ measure would have required vacation rental owners to apply for licensing through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Division of Hotels and Restaurants.

The bill died May 3 after its committee failed to consider the legislation at meetings March 26 and April 10.

“We’re lucky, but the Florida League of Cities people tell us that anti-home rule bills will be brought forward again in 2020, and we need to go on the offense, even early on, before the session starts,” Carter said. “So, we’re trying to come up with some strategies to be offensive players.

“It’s a tad frustrating (to deal with opposing the same efforts repeatedly) but we’re gathering more and more momentum,” Carter continued.

The other set of bills each of the island cities lobbied to oppose included HB 1383, which was filed by Grant and would have amended the Bert J. Harris Private

Property Rights Protection Act, which allows demands for compensation due to government regulations that diminish the value of private property.

HB 1383 would have required across the board application of any settlement reached on a Bert Harris claim that involves the issuance of a variance or exception to a regulation to all “similarly situated residential properties.”

However, “similarly situated” was not defined in the bill, which appeared to be granting the exception as the norm.

The bill also would have reduced the period for a government entity to respond to Bert Harris claims from 150 days to 90 days.

HB 1383 was placed on the calendar for consideration after passing through the Judiciary Committee April 16 on a 15-3 vote, but no further action was taken and it died May 3.

Its companion bill, SB 1720, which was filed by state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, was referred to the Judiciary and Community Affairs committees, but was not considered for a vote at meetings April 1 and April 8, and died May 3.

“The fact that these bills were not passed is very good for the citizens of island cities like ours that are caught in a constant struggle for home rule,” Holmes Beach Commission Chair Jim Kihm said May 9. “We are the ones that deal with this every day and know what is best for our cities, not the legislators.”

Transportation experts surveying public on long-range plans

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The fare-free trolley operated by Manatee County Area Transit stops at the Manatee Public Beach in mid-April for people to catch a ride north. Transportation planners are circulating surveys for long-range planning among transit riders, motorists, bikers and more. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff



Transportation experts compiling a long-range plan know a survey of the general public will define problems.

They also hope people who complete the online survey can shape solutions.

The regional Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization in collaboration with the Florida Department of Transportation and a host of committees is making 25-year plans in “Transform Tomorrow.”

The MPO must revise the document every five years to include a list of transportation improvements, reflect changing priorities, trends and technologies and also address safety, infrastructure, congestion, economics and environmental sustainability.

Technicians, consultants, government administrators and elected officials are shaping the plan, as are public comments via a survey on the MPO’s homepage at www.mympo.org.

The survey begins with basic questions:
• What is your primary mode of transportation?
• How important is transportation to your family?
• Have you missed work due to a lack of transportation?
• Do you drive a car?
• Do you ride a bicycle?
• Will you take public transit?
• Do you use Uber or Lyft?
• Do you walk, run or jog to a destination?

“They really want the public to participate,” Lynn Burnett of LTA Engineers, the contracted city engineer in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach, said May 6. “The goal is to have 4,500 people participate in this survey.”

Burnett commented at Bradenton Beach City Hall during a meeting of the Island Transportation Planning Organization, which consists of the island mayors and meets prior to the MPO board meeting. The May 6 meeting lasted less than 15 minutes.

About the MPO

The Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, established by interlocal agreements, is the regional transportation planning entity for Sarasota and Manatee counties. A 17-member board governs the MPO. Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, as the current chair of the Island Transportation Planning Organization, is a member.

BB again offers settlement in Sunshine lawsuit, citizens decline

The case of Bradenton Beach ex-Mayor Jack Clarke and the city versus six former board members is headed to trial mid-July.

But the city is looking to settle.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law.

Defendant John Metz, a former planning and zoning board member, and the only defendant who has an attorney, filed four motions heard May 3 by Judge Edward Nicholas of the Manatee County 12th Judicial Circuit Court.

The motions were to compel completion of a deposition by city attorney Ricinda Perry to disqualify her as co-counsel in the lawsuit, to compel answers to interrogatories and for award of attorneys’ fees, as well as a motion for production of documents from the city.

“Mr. Metz filed four motions, all of which were denied. It is significant, we think, that the judge made a finding that at least two of the motions were not ‘well-taken and not even a close call,’” Michael Barfield, paralegal for Clarke and the city in the lawsuit, said May 4. “That determination by the judge has a legal consequence that Mr. Metz, as an attorney, certainly knows about.”

But Metz disagrees. He said that initially the plaintiffs denied more deposition time with Perry. Without the motion, the plaintiffs would not have granted the continuation of Perry’s deposition.

“The city only offered the additional three hours because we filed the motion,” Metz said. “So we did not lose everything. We achieved something; it was just a little harder than it should have been. What they are doing is stonewalling until after the work has been done and the money has been paid.”

Metz added that “none of this matters” when the case gets to trial.

“This is going to look totally different when it gets to trial,” Metz said.

Both sides have attempted to settle.

In March, the city made an offer that would have required the defendants — Metz, Reed Mapes, Tjet Martin, Patty Shay and Bill and Rose Vincent — to each pay fines of $500 and admit they violated the Sunshine Law during meetings of the grass-roots group Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach, of which the defendants were members while also serving on volunteer city boards.

The defendants responded with an “offer to compromise,” to donate $10,000 to the Annie Silver Community Center and exclude any admission of guilt and the $500 per-person fine.

The offer was declined by the city.

Then, in April, the city came back with another offer — this time, the case would be closed without an admission of guilt from the defendants — if they pay the court costs incurred by taxpayers totaling more than $200,000 as of May 10.

“I can tell you that the combined attorneys’ fees for the defendants is in the same magnitude as the city,” Metz said. “So, you’re talking about six retired people, who just to maintain their innocence, have had to put out a significant amount of money. And, when this goes to trial, the costs will vastly increase.”

In light of rising costs for both sides, the city has encouraged the defendants to reconsider previous settlement offers.

According to Perry, both offers still stand, even though the city previously gave the defendants deadlines — since expired — to respond.

“By my calculation, Mr. Metz’s actions (May 3) wasted approximately $15,000 of attorney time and taxpayer funds, and three hours of court time in his ongoing feud to attack the city attorney and avoid responsibility for his actions,” Barfield said. “Notwithstanding, the city continues to urge the defendants to give due consideration to the favorable settlement offers made in this case.”

As of May 8, the defendants, who met privately to arrive at a collective decision, did not intend to accept either settlement agreement.

“When you change your offer from $500 to $200,000, now we know what it’s really about,” Metz said. “If they lose, they will also have to pay our attorney’s fees.

They stand to be out a great deal of money in this case. And we still have a long ways to go.”

Depositions canceled

Another one bites the dust.

The discovery in a lawsuit filed August 2017 by Bradenton Beach ex-Mayor Jack Clarke and the city of Bradenton Beach against six former city board members has involved multiple depositions, with more to come before a mid-July trial.

Defendant Rose Vincent and witness Michael Bazzy’s depositions, set for May 8, were canceled May 6 by the plaintiffs — the city and Clarke — apparently due to health issues.

This was the fourth consecutive cancelation by the plaintiffs of Rose Vincent’s deposition.

Defendant Tjet Martin, a former member of Scenic Waves, said she is frustrated with the plaintiff’s repeated cancellations. “They have accused us of slowing this down, but they have been the ones canceling,” Martin said May 8.

Holmes Beach charter reviewers wrap up sessions, recommendations

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Attorney Thomas Thanus, Holmes Beach charter review Commissioner Sean Murphy, Chair Edward Upshaw and Commissioner David Zaccagnino engage in discussion May 8. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

The final report is approved and ready to go the city commission.

During their May 8 meeting, Charter Review Commissioners Sean Murphy, David Zaccagnino and Chair Edward Upshaw, approved 3-0 Upshaw’s third draft of a final report on the commission’s conclusions.

Commissioners Claudia Carlson and Nancy Deal were absent with excuse.

Attorney Thomas Thanus attended the meeting as an alternate for city attorney Patricia Petruff.

After approving past meeting minutes, the commissioners reviewed Deal’s suggestions for minor typographical changes to the charter, including the addition or deletion of commas and apostrophes. A motion to accept the agreed upon changes passed 3-0.

Upon reviewing the previously approved ordinance containing the proposed charter amendments, Murphy said language in the section dealing with tighter restrictions for vacations of city-owned property was only amended to include rights of way with “direct or indirect access to the beach or to the bay,” when the language that was approved included all city-owned rights of way.

Upshaw suggested the city attorney revise the amendment to state, “Real property and rights of way, including rights of way that provide direct or indirect access to the beach…”

Thanus said changing the language would mean revising it to include what was already approved, and the rewording could be done by Petruff and without another vote.

Commissioners also agreed to remove three of 10 proposed ballot questions — one approving consolidation of city-owned property legal descriptions and two amendments to delete redundant language.

“It could confuse voters and it’s just housekeeping on something already voted on,” Upshaw said.

Thanus said he would check with Petruff to determine if the ordinance must retain the three amendments or the city commission could vote on the matters.

When the CRC last considered the matter of retaining its strong-mayor status or allowing a city manager, the vote was split with Carlson, Deal and Upshaw supporting a ballot question on the city manager form of government and Murphy and Zaccagnino opposing the ballot measure.

The charter requires a supermajority vote — at least 4-1 — to place an amendment on the ballot for voter consideration. Because of the split 3-2 vote, the matter will not be on the Nov. 5 municipal ballot.

Carlson and Murphy provided majority and minority reports, which the CRC approved as appendices to its final report.

“I’m happy that this commission has come to an agreement,” Zaccagnino said May 8. “I think all these are important and it’s good that there’s not any dispute up here on the approved charter amendments.”

However, there was dispute when it came to including the voter’s choice for a city manager, which was blocked by Murphy and Zaccagnino.

Charter changes approved in April by a supermajority of the committee will be submitted to the city commission as an ordinance, and then sent to the Manatee County Supervision of Elections for a citywide vote on the November ballot.

Upshaw will present the committee’s report to the city commission during a work session at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 30, at city hall.

The first reading of the ordinance will be held during the city meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, also at city hall.

Eyes on the road – 05-15-2019

The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following notices for the week of May 13:

Avenue C: Right-of-way restoration in Bradenton Beach continues along Avenue C, including installation of a stormwater infiltration system and driveway restoration. Once restoration is completed, paving will begin.

Coquina Beach: Manatee County is paving the south end of the Coquina Beach parking lot in Bradenton Beach. The south lot will be closed during the work.

Palma Sola Causeway on Manatee Avenue/State Road 64 at the boat ramp: The Manatee County Palma Sola Boat Ramp is closed for construction activity.

For more information about the pipeline replacement projects on the island, go online to amipipereplacement.com.

For the latest road watch information, go online to www.fl511.com or dial 511.

Two men head back to court for derelict vessels

Two vessel owners face more enforcement in Bradenton Beach.

Bradenton Beach Police Officer Eric Hill issued John Avery and Jeremy Thomas citations for derelict vessels March 26 and their cases are making their way through 12th Circuit Court.

State law prohibits any person to store, leave or abandon a vessel that is wrecked, junked or dismantled on state waters.

A year ago, 12th Circuit Judge Renee Inman found Avery guilty for failing to register a boat and leaving a derelict boat in Sarasota Bay south of the Historic Bridge Street Pier. Three months later, she found him in compliance.

In the latest case, BBPD alleges Avery’s 22-foot 1984 Tanzer sailboat has no lights and is taking on water. He was notified of $220 fine required by June 1, according to court records.

Thomas was cited for violating the derelict statute because his 30-foot 1977 cabin cruiser has no means of propulsion.

In a letter to the court, Thomas contested his March 26 citation, saying Hill gave him 30-plus tickets in 2017 and harasses him on the water and on the land.
Hill denies the allegations.

A 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 5, hearing is set in the Thomas case.

Sea turtle season crawls forward on Anna Maria Island

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Marty Hollar, manager of the Anna Maria Island Dream Inn, 2502 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, sits with her granddaughter, Lorelei Myers, 4, as she displays a rack card with tips for protecting coastal wildlife. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
Nests line Coquina Beach in July 2018. By the end of the season, Oct. 31, 2018, 534 loggerhead nests were documented on Anna Maria Island. Islander File Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Ready? Set? You bet.

“We pretty much have a set routine now to prepare for the sea turtles,” Marty Hollar, manager of the Anna Maria Island Dream Inn in Bradenton Beach, said May 8 about preparations for sea turtle nesting season.

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring documented the first nest of the season May 1, near the south end of the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach.

The season runs May-October.

As of May 12, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring had identified 9 nests and 15 false crawls on the island.

Last year, AMITW saw a record-breaking nesting season, with 534 loggerhead sea turtle nests.

By the start of the season, AMITW and officials in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach expect beachfront businesses and residents to comply with federal, state and municipal sea turtle regulations, which include proper lighting and removing beach gear before sunset, such as tents, canopies, chairs and rafts.

Hollar said AMITW executive director Suzi Fox provided her with handouts, door hangers and stickers detailing the rules and regulations to share with guests.

Hollar said she and her daughters, who work at the hotel, change lightbulbs in Gulf-facing fixtures to amber-colored, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission compliant bulbs and ensure staff removes beach furniture before sunset.

During nesting and after hatching, sea turtles are drawn by their instincts to the Gulf of Mexico by the reflection of the moon and stars on the water’s surface.

Disorientations can occur when lights visible from the shoreline attract the sea turtles away from the water, making them vulnerable to predators, exhaustion or death by dehydration.

Additionally, sea turtles only leave the water to nest, so obstructions on the beach can lead to a failed nesting attempt, injury or death by drowning if the sea turtle becomes trapped underneath a chair and it washes into the water.

“Guests are asking, ‘When will we get to see the sea turtles?’ Hollar said. “We let them know there are no guarantees.”

Fox said if someone is lucky enough to see a nesting sea turtle, they should observe from a distance of at least 50 feet.

She said a person approached her May 2 on the beach to show her a photo he took the night before of a loggerhead that had emerged from the Gulf.

When AMITW checked the area where the photo was taken, there were no eggs. Fox said, judging from the picture, the person was too close to the turtle and possibly frightened it back into the Gulf.

“I understand people are excited, but the mama turtles are here to do a job,” Fox said. “They need their space to nest.”

Fox said people are doing well with turtle-friendly beachfront lighting, but some spots need to come into compliance. She said she is working with code enforcement in the island cities to get lighting up to speed.

Holmes Beach code enforcement supervisor JT Thomas said officers conduct nighttime lighting inspections, then, the next day, communicate with tenants and owners about problem areas.

Additionally, Thomas and Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer recently worked with representatives from Florida Power and Light to shield some streetlights that could have caused disorientations.

Thomas said keeping the beaches clean, flat and properly lit for sea turtles and people requires a unified front. “We work together as a team with turtle watch, business owners, residents and visitors,” Thomas said. “It’s all about education and communication with the public to keep the sea turtles safe.”

Info and aid

For more information on nesting season, contact Fox at suzifox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

Visit myfwc.com/seaturtle and click on “Sea Turtles and Lights” for more on keeping beaches safe for sea turtles.

To report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles contact the FWC at 888-404-3922.

Mote spots ‘extremely rare’ leatherback sea turtle nests

It’s been nearly 20 years since they were last documented on Gulf of Mexico beaches.

As of May 8, two “extremely rare” leatherback sea turtle nests were spotted on Siesta Key and Venice beaches, according to Mote Marine Laboratory of Sarasota.

“Leatherback sea turtles rarely nest on Gulf of Mexico beaches. The only leatherback nest documented by Mote Marine Laboratory in our area was in 2001,” stated a release issued May 8 in advance of a news conference that day.

Leatherback sea turtles, which predominantly nest on Florida’s East Coast, are the largest of the seven sea turtle species, growing to more than 6.5 feet in length and weighing up to 2,000 pounds. Leatherbacks venture into deeper waters and migrate further than other sea turtle species, according to Mote’s release.

In its 38th year, Mote’s sea turtle conservation and research program monitors 35 miles of beaches, from Longboat Key to Venice, for nesting activity.

For more information on leatherback sea turtles, visit myfwc.com.

Icon set to install T-end deck at Anna Maria City Pier

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An i+iconSOUTHEAST employee works May 9 on installing stringers and utility lines in the walkway of the new Anna Maria City Pier. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice
Icon employees haul generators to a staging area, the pavilion at the Anna Maria City Pier May 10, for construction of the pier walkway.

The new Anna Maria City Pier is taking shape.

Mayor Dan Murphy told city commissioners May 9 that i+iconSOUTHEAST finished installing pile bents — wood beams attached to each pair of walkway piles via concrete caps — earlier in the week.

Murphy said Icon will spend one-two weeks installing stringers, vertically set support planks laid the length of the walkway, as well as utility lines for communication, water, gas and electricity between the planks.

The utility lines will be secured to the stringers with stainless steel straps and covered with ipe wood decking once complete.

Murphy displayed a picture of the damaged old pier, remarking that the city dealt with frequent maintenance issues with the old utility lines because of movement due to tides.

Next, he showed a photo of the progress on the new walkway, with bents set and stringers and utility lines being laid.

The mayor said the new stainless steel straps would limit the movement of the utility lines, securing them from damage.

“It’s a vast improvement from where we were,” Murphy said.

Remaining materials, including the concrete decking for the T-end and ipe decking for the walkway, will be delivered to the Kingfish Boat Ramp in Holmes Beach in the next couple of weeks. From there, the materials will be loaded onto Icon’s barge.

After delivery and the setting of stringers and utility lines, Icon will install the concrete decking at the T-end.

Murphy said the work will involve setting large blocks of concrete and installing a junction box in the base of the decking for the restaurant and bait shop to use to access utility lines.

The city issued a request for proposals to construct the restaurant and bait shop at the T-end after Icon finishes constructing the walkway and T-end structure.

The city began building a new pier after tearing down the 106-year-old pier in 2018. The structure was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

The mayor said the concrete placement requires good weather and still waters because precision is needed to place the concrete from the barge-set crane. He couldn’t estimate how long the step would take.

The final stage of construction involves the installation of ipe decking along the walkway and on top of the concrete deck at the T-end.