BRADENTON BEACH – The dozen or so boats that were pulled from their moorings by Tropical Storm Debby left their mark on the bay area near the Bridge Street Pier. Some of them pulled loose from their moorings and sank; some were driven into the center of the Intracoastal Waterway and about a half dozen hit the pier itself.The boats damaged the pier to the point that the city had to close it to anglers and walkers, and it doesn’t look like it will be reopened for a while.
The city had already started planning a refurbishment project that would include replacing all of the concrete pilings east of Rotten Ralph’s restaurant, most likely with wood ones. The old pilings are worn out and many of them are in danger of failing, according to city officials.
The question at the latest meeting of the Pier Team on Thursday, July 5, was whether to have a dock and seawall builder do a quick fix so they could reopen the pier to the public or wait to replace it with the others in a few months.
According to seawall and pier specialist Charles Sego, with whom the city is contracting for the pier rehab, the piling is in two pieces and the only thing holding it in place is the weight of the pier. Pier Team Head Sam Speciale, who is also the police chief, asked Sego if they would have to keep the pier closed and he said yes, unless they replace that piling.
The city contacted a couple of seawall and dock contractors for an estimate to replace the piling, and while they received no estimates yet, they got the impression it could be as high as $10,000.
Police Lt. John Cosby, who also acts as the city’s safety officer, said they told the pier specialists they would not need the piling replaced for the Fourth of July because it was too soon to make such a decision.
The question now is whether to pay for the new piling so the pier could be reopened afterward or wait until they replace all the pilings planned, which could mean well into next season.
“I can’t see spending $10,000 for one piling when we’ll have to take it out in six months,” Mayor John Shaughnessy said.
“I don’t think we should spend $5-grand,” City Commissioner Gay Breuler added.
“If you don’t replace that piling, it won’t survive another storm,” Sego warned.
In addition, the city is trying to cope with a number of boats that got loose and are still tied up close to the pier or sunk in the bay.
The city had some funds from the West Coast Inland Navigational District (WCIND) to pay for getting rid of the boats, according to Cosby. The police department handles the derelict boat disposal and that money would not get far. Cosby said Manatee County offered some of their WCIND money, but going that route takes a lot of time.
“It would be 40 days before they could even start to get rid of them,” Speciale said.
“All the boats out there were legal,” Cosby said. That means they had adequate sewage disposal and they ran, but they were not insured. Cosby suggested using the police boat to haul them ashore where public works could cut them up and dispose of them.
“We would need to have the boat owners sign off on them so we could take possession of them,” Cosby said. “If we go this route, we could start tomorrow.”
Cosby said some people have said they would buy some of the parts from the sunken boats, especially aluminum masts.
“That’s one way we could recoup some of our expenses,” he added.
Commissioner Rick Gatehouse asked about putting liens on the boats, but Cosby and Speciale said it would cost more money than it would generate for the city.
The group approved the idea of trying to take possession of the derelicts and get rid of them through public works. They also expressed support for keeping the pier closed until the refurbishment.