Anna Maria City Pier to remain closed

Anna Maria City Pier
The Anna Maria City Pier is not expected to reopen for at least another year. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

Updated Sept. 26, 2017

ANNA MARIA – The Anna Maria City Pier will be closed for at least a year due to damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma.

On Sept. 20, Mayor Dan Murphy received a structural assessment and damage report from the Ayers Associates engineering firm in Tampa. The report was based on the firm’s Sept. 15 inspection of the pier.

“We recommend immediate closure of the facility until appropriate repairs are made to the pier and buildings,” the report concludes.

The report estimates it will take 12 or more months to design, permit and reconstruct the pier originally built in 1911.

“Until those repairs are complete, the public should not be permitted on the pier,” the report says.

The inspection revealed broken, compromised and deteriorated support bents throughout the length of the pier, some of which were in that condition before Hurricane Irma.

Walkway planks adjacent to the bait shop were lifted, scattered and compromised. The missing bait shop roof is covered with tarp. The ceiling near the bar on the south end of the City Pier Restaurant had plywood falling through it and the roof was leaking.

Moving forward

On Monday, Sept. 25, Murphy and the City Commission held an emergency meeting regarding the pier. The commission authorized Murphy begin contract negotiations with Ayers to serve as the city’s second contracted engineering firm. If hired, Ayres will focus primarily on the design, permitting and management of now expedited $2 million pier reconstruction.

The reconstruction of the aging pier was already in the works, albeit on a slower path, before the hurricane damage occurred.

Murphy sent copies of the Ayres assessment to County Administrator Ed Hunzeker and Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Elliott Falcione. The county officials had already made a tentative commitment to provide up to $1 million in matching funds for the previously planned pier project, and Murphy plans to meet with Hunzeker this week.

Tenant-employee impacts

Murphy sent a copy of the Ayres assessment to pier tenant Mario Schoenfelder, and he met with Schoenfelder’s general manager, David Sork, who oversees the City Pier Restaurant and bait shop operations at the end of the pier.

“I told Mr. Sork to notify all his employees immediately to not hang around waiting. They are going to be out of work long-term,” Murphy said last week.

Schoenfelder’s current lease with the city is scheduled to expire in December 2020 but those terms may need to be renegotiated now that Murphy has declared the pier damage cannot be repaired within 120 days.

“We need to come up with a mutually agreeable plan,” Murphy said.

Murphy also sent Schoenfelder an e-mail containing a list of action items that need to be done.

“The city pier is at the top of my work load. I don’t know when you are returning to the U.S., but it would be helpful if you and I and Mr. Sork meet face-to-face to discuss your role and expectations going forward,” Murphy wrote.

Sork attended Monday’s emergency meeting. Afterwards, he said the pier closure has put approximately 35 employees out of work. The Bridge Tender Inn in Bradenton Beach has offered to hire some of the displaced restaurant workers, and after the meeting, City Commissioner Brian Seymour told Sork he could use another cook at his Anna Maria General Store.

“I’m physically, emotionally and financially drained, but we’ll come back, somewhere, somehow,” Sork said after the meeting.