City commission revises water taxi agreement

City commission revises water taxi agreement
The City Pier already features a boat landing area that might be used as a water taxi landing. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA – The city commission has returned a revised interlocal agreement regarding the City Pier being used as a water taxi stop to Manatee County officials for further consideration.

The proposed agreement establishes the city and county’s proposed conditions for the use of the City Pier.

County officials could reject or revise some of the revisions made by the Anna Maria Commission, but at some point, an interlocal agreement must be finalized and approved by the city commission before the City Pier can be used as a water taxi stop.

The pier-based water taxi stop would be part of a county-funded water taxi service that would travel between downtown Bradenton and Anna Maria Island, with stops at the City Pier, the Bradenton Beach Pier and the Coquina South boat ramp in Bradenton Beach.

The latest version of the proposed agreement includes revisions sought by the city commission during its March 9 and March 23 discussions, when commissioners authorized Mayor Dan Murphy to return the revised agreement to the county.

“The purposes of the water taxi are to relieve automobile congestion coming to and from the Island and to provide an affordable means of public transportation to and from the Island for visitors, residents and workers,” the agreement says.

Terms & conditions

The revised agreement drafted by City Attorney Becky Vose includes several terms and conditions requested by the city commission.

The mayor and commissioners have repeatedly stressed their desire that Island employees be allowed to ride the water taxis for free or at a reduced rate. The proposed agreement does not specifically say Island employees will ride for free, but during Thursday’s meeting the commission requested the following language be added to the agreement: “All workers’ fares between Anna Maria and Bradenton shall be subject to the approval of the city to ensure that fares for workers are affordable.”

The city does not seek input on the fares to be charged to other users.

City commission revises water taxi agreement
Manatee County wants to use the City Pier in Anna Maria as a water taxi stop. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

The agreement proposes, and the city commission insists, that the county be responsible for all water taxi-related improvements made to the existing boat landing area and/or any other part of the pier. The improvements could include the installation of safety railings at the landing area only. They may also include other enhancements needed for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The agreement also proposes the county, or its contractor, be fully responsible for any costs associated with the ongoing maintenance of any water taxi dockage components located on the pier.

The agreement says the county must assume all legal liability associated with the operation of the water taxi service.

The revised agreement says: “The water taxi route must include service between downtown Bradenton and the City Pier on every regularly scheduled day of operation, weather permitting. Any scheduled route for the water taxi must include the city of Anna Maria both coming and going to and from downtown Bradenton. No route shall return to Bradenton without having Anna Maria as its last stop before Bradenton. Elimination of this route negates this interlocal agreement.”

The revised agreement says, “The county agrees to provide a detailed plan in advance to the Anna Maria City Commission for approval showing the proposed landing area on the pier and any modifications or improvements required for the dockage and the pier. The city has the right to cancel this agreement if it finds that such modifications or improvements are unsatisfactory to the city.”

Murphy said he did not yet know if the county plans to use the existing boat landing or some other part of the pier as a water taxi landing.

Additional details

Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Elliott Falcione is one of the county staff members tasked with bringing the long-desired water taxi service to fruition.

In October, the Manatee County Commission authorized the county administrator to spend up to $700,000 to build two water taxis to initially be owned by the county and to be managed and operated by the Clearwater Ferry company.

When addressing the city and county commissions in the past, Falcione said the water taxis will initially operate from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only. Additional service days and/or expanded operating hours will be considered if the ridership demand exists.

On Friday, The Sun sought and received some additional information from Falcione. Falcione said each water taxi will be 50 feet long and accommodate 49 passengers.

When asked about free fares for Island employees, he said, “We do plan to have a no-charge service for employees, but it’s complicated, so we do not have a defined plan at this time. We do plan to work with the hospitality owners on the Island to help bring their employees to work via ferry. It’s a program that may not start until the fall.”

In the past, Falcione has mentioned the possibility of Island businesses providing their employees with water taxi passes.

As for when the water taxi service might begin, Falcione said, “We are hoping for a July startup.”