ANNA MARIA – The City Commission has accepted a $1.37 million staff recommendation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that would help fund the construction of a new city pier.
During a special commission meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 29, Mayor Dan Murphy presented the FEMA recommendation for the commission to approve or reject. Murphy said the commission could challenge the FEMA offer in hopes of getting an extra $100,000 or $200,000, but he recommended accepting the offer.
Murphy said the city submitted to FEMA a $1.8 million estimate for damages the pier sustained last September during Hurricane Irma – damages that occurred when the aging pier was already slated for rehabilitation within five years.
The damage included the roof being torn off the bait shop and bar building, damage to the restaurant building and significant damage to the pier’s T-end decking.
Murphy said FEMA offered the city 75 percent of what was requested and that was due to questions about the scouring of the pier pilings that could not be definitively attributed to the hurricane. Scouring is erosion caused by moving water.
“I would have difficulty saying there was no scouring of the pilings prior to the hurricane,” Murphy said.
“If we challenge it, we go back to the steps we were in before – negotiating, getting engineers’ estimates and providing more information as to what we’re challenging,” Murphy said.
“If you accept this, they go on and complete the formalized offer. At that point, we could begin our construction. Until we get the formal offer back from FEMA, we can’t start that construction,” he added.
Murphy said it would take approximately 30 days to formalize the FEMA offer.
The state of Florida must also concur with the FEMA recommendation that also has to be presented to the Congressional Budget Committee because the funding request exceeds $1 million.
“They have to allocate the money to give us the resources to start the pier,” Murphy said.
“The bottom line is if you vote today to accept this offer, my estimate is that in the late October-early November time frame we could begin driving piles,” Murphy said, noting this would still keep the pier project on track for a December 2019 completion date.
Murphy originally anticipated construction beginning in September, but he and the commission have not yet selected a pier construction firm. After recently rejecting the first two bids received because the bids were too high, a modified request for proposals is supposed to be issued this week. Murphy said he expects the second round of construction bids to be submitted to the city by the end of September.
Murphy praised City Clerk LeAnne Addy for working on the FEMA funding for the past nine or 10 months.
“They lost all of our paperwork at one point. We’ve been showing records and we’ve been negotiating, and LeAnne has done a sterling job with bringing us to the point where we are today,” Murphy said.
Pier revenue sources
The mayor also presented the commission with a pier funding update. In addition to the FEMA money, the city has already secured $1.5 million in a Tourist Development Council recommendation for County Commission-approved resort tax revenues, $330,000 in County Commission-approved surplus beach concession revenues, $750,000 from the Florida Legislature and $650,000 from the city’s general fund.
Commissioner Brian Seymour noted the pier demolition cost approximately $750,000 and that leaves $4.4 million to build a new pier – a pier that includes a restaurant and bait shop at its T-end.
Murphy said the only amount listed in his revenue projections that has not been secured is the $500,000 he hopes to get from the pier tenant.
“I had always projected $500,000 from the tenant, whether it’s the current tenant or a new tenant,” he said.
The tenant’s contribution will be used for the interior buildout of the restaurant and bait shop.
Current pier tenant Mario Schoenfelder’s lease with the city expires in December 2020. He and Murphy have engaged in productive preliminary discussions but Schoenfelder had not yet committed to assisting with the pier funding and extending his lease. If Schoenfelder and the city cannot come to terms, a new tenant will be sought.