Preliminary plans call for modern pier

Anna Maria Pier design firm
Chris Martin, Hisham Sunna, Janice Sands and Jay Saxena, from the Ayres Associates engineering firm, present the preliminary pier plans. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA – The new Anna Maria City Pier will feature concrete pilings and beams, plastic composite decking, and come with an estimated $3.4 million price tag if built according to the preliminary plans introduced Tuesday.

Jay Saxena, vice president for the Tampa-based Ayres Associates engineering and design firm, presented the preliminary plans during a special commission meeting Tuesday, Oct. 17.

The plans are to build a pier with an estimated service life of 75 to 100 years.

Saxena said the concrete pilings could be masked to look like wood pilings, but at an additional cost.

Lumberock composite decking will replace the existing wooden pier planks, and there will be a 1¼-inch gap between planks to allow for drainage; and also for sunshine to get through to the seagrass and sea life below.

The existing engraved wooden planks will be returned to those who had them inscribed or will be repurposed as a boardwalk or some other public use.

The work plan timeline Saxena presented said conceptual renderings would be ready by December. The work plan projects a 16-24 month permitting period; four to six weeks to solicit and review requests for proposals from local contractors; two to four weeks to select a primary contractor and 30 weeks to do the actual construction. Saxena said all timelines are dependent on the permitting process that comes first.

Commissioner Dale Woodland and Mayor Dan Murphy share differing opinions on the continued use of the existing wooden pilings. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

Woodland suggestions

As he’s done during previous discussions, Commissioner Dale Woodland proposed an alternate approach to the pier construction. He again lobbied for a piece-meal, multi-contractor approach. And this week he proposed the new pier be built atop the existing wooden pilings – a suggestion that received no support from Mayor Dan Murphy, the other commissioners (minus Nancy Yetter, who was absent) or the Ayres staff.

Woodland suggested that using the existing wooden pilings would cut down on the construction time, which in his opinion would help get displaced City Pier Restaurant and bait shop employees back to work sooner; lessen the economic impact on the nearby Pine Avenue business district and make the pier available again to visitors and regular users.

Anna Maria Pier plan
Due to hurricane damage, the Anna Maria City Pier will remain closed until a replacement pier is built. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

Ayres’ structural engineer Hisham Sunna said there was no way to predict how many of the existing pilings could be salvaged or how long they would last if left in place. Saxena said building a new pier atop old pilings would eventually create the need for future piling replacements that could negatively impact the new pier.

The Ayres team also said using multiple contractors instead of one primary contractor would create liability and project accountability challenges and possibly discourage large construction firms from bidding on the job.

Ayres manager and permitting expert Janice Sands said reusing old pilings could also create permitting issues. She advised the commission to take advantage FEMA’s hurricane-related permitting relaxations while available.

Commissioner Doug Copeland referenced the transitory nature of restaurant employees and said he doubted any former City Pier Restaurant employees were sitting around waiting for the pier to reopen.

When contacted last week, former City Pier Restaurant General Manager David Sork said he was now working in Palmetto and most of the former pier employees had found new jobs.

Copeland also stressed the need for a local contracting firm that has a large staff and roster of subcontractors to ensure the work gets done as quickly as possible.

Commissioner Brian Seymour liked the idea of using Lumberock instead of real wood because that will make it easier to maintain a pier that has not been regularly maintained in the past.

The meeting ended with the commission voting 4-0 in favor of a pier designed for a 75-100 year service life, which essentially equates to approval for concrete pilings and support beams and the composite decking.

After the meeting, Commissioner Seymour was asked if the pier closing has impacted business at his Anna Maria General Store and Deli on Pine Avenue. Seymour said the sales of bait and fishing tackle have been virtually non-existent since the mayor closed the pier due to damage sustained during Hurricane Irma. He said there’s also been a decline in the sales of sandwiches and beer to those who regularly fish on the pier.