ANNA MARIA – Mayor Dan Murphy doesn’t want people blaming the Ayres Associates design and engineering firm for the pending demolition and replacement of the Anna Maria City Pier.
Murphy recently questioned a Sun story that stated Ayres Associates repeatedly recommended the demolition of the pier. A review of the commission’s pier discussions dating back to October indicates Ayres Associates did not recommend pier demolition. Nor, when following the City Commission’s direction, has Ayres Associates expressed support for any plan that doesn’t involve a new pier being built where the currently closed pier stands.
“The commission’s vote unanimously was to build a pier to a 75-to-100-year term. We went to Ayres and said we need you to start designing a 75-to-100-year pier,” Murphy said during the commission’s Jan. 29 pier meeting.
“Ayres did not declare the pier totally destroyed. The lease declared it totally destroyed. Ayres did not say you need a whole new pier. The commission decided. If there’s any misconceptions about where we’re headed, the responsibility lies with the six of us sitting here today,” he added.
During the Oct. 12, 2017, City Commission meeting, Murphy discussed the forthcoming Oct. 17 pier meeting.
“The first question you need to weigh in on is what type of a service life do you want? I strongly recommend that we build a service life for this pier of 75 to 100 years,” he said.
He noted his recommendation would be incorporated into the pier presentation. On Oct. 17, Ayres Vice President Jay Saxena gave a PowerPoint presentation that referenced a pier designed for a 75-to-100-year service life with pre-cast pilings, concrete beams and framing and Lumberock composite decking. At that time, the commission had not yet voted on what type of service life it desired.
“If we’re looking to extend that service life, wooden piers may not be that option,” Saxena said.
With Commissioner Nancy Yetter absent, the commission voted 4-0 in favor of Ayres designing a pier with a 75-to-100-year service life.
At the time, the commission consisted of Yetter, Carol Carter, Doug Copeland, Brian Seymour and Dale Woodland. In February, Yetter resigned and Amy Tripp was appointed to serve the rest of her term.
The Oct. 17 vote has guided the commission’s decisions on concrete pilings, Kebony hardwood decking, Kebony hardwood siding for the restaurant and bait shop, and the demolition of the current pier.
Woodland recently questioned the Oct. 17 decision when opposing the selection of a pier demolition firm.
The path to demolition
During the Jan. 29, 2018, pier meeting, Murphy recapped the commission’s decision-making process to date.
He referenced the structural assessment report Bridge Design Associates submitted to the city and Manatee County in 2016. The report projected a five-year life expectancy for the existing pier. It stated recommended repairs would extend the pier’s service life by 20 to 25 years and replacing the pier with one built to current standards would provide a 50-to-75-year service life.
“To that end, we issued an RFP (request for proposals) for design services,” Murphy said.
The city couldn’t come to terms with the three firms that responded to the RFP. This led later to Ayres Associates being contracted to serve as the city’s second city engineering firm, focusing primarily on the pier.
Murphy recalled the damage Hurricane Irma inflicted on the pier, his need to know if it was safe to reopen, and if not, how long it would take to repair?
“Ayres came back with a report that basically said it’s not safe. You need to close the pier immediately,” Murphy said of that September decision.
He noted the period of closure would depend on whether the commission wanted patchwork repairs, remedial repairs or long-term repairs.
“Any way you cut it, it’s going to be closed for 120 days because there’s some permitting required,” Murphy said.
He then referenced the lease pier tenant Mario Schoenfelder signed in 2000.
“That lease stated that if repairs to the pier were over 120 days then it would be deemed at the sole discretion of the city to be totally destroyed. We all know the pier’s not totally destroyed. That’s how we got to the pier being declared totally destroyed,” Murphy said in January.