Commission discusses pier planks and funding

Anna Maria City Pier Planks
The city will try to reuse or return the engraved planks that grace the city pier, which must be replaced. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA – Efforts will be made to preserve the engraved planks on the Anna Maria City Pier that feature dedications and remembrances of friends, family members and loved ones.

Due to damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma, the pier will remain closed until a replacement pier is built.

Anna Maria City Pier closed
– Joe Hendricks | Sun

“The new city engineers assigned to the pier project have been given the task of developing a recommendation as to the ultimate disposition of the planks. Our intention is to save all or as many as possible. At this point, it’s safe to say the planks will not be scrapped because they have a great deal of sentimental value to both the donors and the city,” Mayor Dan Murphy said late last week.

Murphy also discussed the planks at the Sept. 28 City Commission meeting.

“The intent is to save those planks even though it wasn’t the city’s decision to put those planks there,” he said, noting that it was a third party that received the money to install the engraved planks.

“It’s a little bit sticky and somebody should have thought about this before they did it,” he said of the logistics involved with reusing the planks or returning them to those who paid to have them engraved and installed.

Murphy said the potential costs and the amount of effort put forth would be determined as the project moves forward.

“We’ll do our very best, I promise,” he told the commission.

Pier reconstruction

The commission authorized Murphy to execute an open-ended contract with Ayres Associates. The Tampa-based engineering firm will serve as contracted city engineers and design, permit and manage the reconstruction of a new pier.

“If you authorize me to sign this contract today, work begins tomorrow,” Murphy said.

One of the first tasks will be to determine how much funding can be sought from FEMA for the hurricane damage, and how much falls to the city for the pre-storm condition of the pier and pier structures.

“What was storm related and what’s not,” Murphy said.

“This will be a major rebuild of the pier, not just fixing the storm damage. This is what we were going to do previously,” Commission chair Doug Copeland said of the pier replacement plans that date back to 2016.

In response to a question from Commissioner Carol Carter, Murphy said the pier would be rebuilt according to current codes.

“When we get to the construction end of this, we’re going to be using local contractors; that’s my stipulation to Ayres,” Murphy said.

“This pier’s been here over 100 years and I think our intent should be that it’s going to be here for another 100,” he said. “This is a legacy that this commission can leave to the city of Anna Maria. The pier’s an heirloom. The intent is to fix it and fix it right,” he added.

Funding mechanisms

Murphy told the commission he met with Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker and Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Elliott Falcione earlier that day to discuss their 2016 offer to provide up to $1 million in matching funds for the pier rehabilitation.

“In the past, it was a 50-50 split. They understand that I want more than a match, so there’s a TDC (Tourist Development Council) meeting on Dec. 4 and we will present our case. I told them we’re starting tomorrow; we’re not going to hold everything up until December. They understood that and said they’ll pick up our expenses starting Oct. 1,” Murphy said.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office has also offered support.

“He has some sort of vested memories of the pier; he’s been here and he’s visited it. His offer is to help us with federal permitting as well as possible historical grants,” Murphy said.

The mayor said Rubio’s office would help the city get federal loans in a worst-case funding scenario.

Murphy also plans to contact Gov. Rick Scott’s office and State Sen. Bill Galvano about additional funding sources.