ANNA MARIA – Manatee County and Anna Maria city officials continue to discuss the safety and docking modifications needed to accommodate a Gulf Island Ferry stop at the city pier.
Those negotiations remain ongoing, and the city and the county have not yet entered into an interlocal agreement that would allow the city pier to serve as a ferry stop.
At some point this year, Manatee County plans to begin Friday, Saturday and Sunday ferry service between downtown Bradenton and Anna Maria Island, with stops at the city pier in Anna Maria, the Bradenton Beach Pier and the Coquina South boat ramp in Bradenton Beach.
In August, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and the city commission rejected the county’s proposal to install pilings, a floating dock and a gated and locked ferry landing area at the existing boat landing at the T-end of the pier. Murphy told county officials to focus instead on installing Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant landing ramps on the ferries so passengers can embark and disembark without significant modifications made to the pier.
On Sept. 7, one of the Gulf Island Ferry boats made a trial run that included stops at each planned ferry stop. Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Elliott Falcione is leading the county’s efforts to implement the water taxi service. He told The Sun that meetings with city officials took place at each of the trial run stops that day.
Later that evening, Murphy provided the city commission with a progress update. He said he met with Falcione, an engineer, a ferry captain and others on the pier earlier that day. He noted county officials refer to the two new boats as ferries, rather than water taxis, and that’s how the county service is being marketed.
“I don’t have an agreement to show you, but we’re closer,” Murphy told the commission.
He said he was asked if the city would allow the county to drive two pilings near the existing landing area to provide better stabilization for the ferries. Murphy said he didn’t know if the pilings would require permits from the Army Corps of Engineers or other regulating agencies. As an alternative to the pilings, county officials also suggested the installation of a mooring arm that would help stabilize the docked ferries.
Murphy said the county officials brought no illustrated plans to the ad-hoc pier meeting. He asked them to submit two plans, with estimated costs, for city commission consideration – one plan for pilings and another for a mooring arm.
Murphy said if pilings are installed, the city would specify that they must be made of concrete or plastic composite. He noted there are worms in the Tampa Bay waters that deteriorate and destroy wood pilings.
Any city-approved pier modifications would be installed at the county’s expense and the city would then be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of those modifications.
“I want it to be very low maintenance,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the city would install signs that require other boats tied to the small public landing area to be occupied at all times so they can be moved to make space for an approaching ferry. Those who leave an unattended boat in the landing area will face a possible fine.
“People have to yield to the water taxi,” Murphy said.
If the city and county enter into an interlocal agreement and the city decides later to opt out of the ferry service, the city must reimburse the county for the pier modifications made.
Commission Chair Mark Short asked if the county provided an estimated timeline to complete the pier modifications. Murphy said no timeline was given but the goal is to get it done as soon as possible.
When contacted by The Sun, Falcione said, “We are making progress and we are getting closer to starting our operation. I am not ready to give an estimated start date.”