New lifeguards, stands, on horizon

Coquina Beach lifeguard stand
Coquina Beach lifeguard stand - Cindy Lane | Sun

CORTEZ BEACH – Six new lifeguards in three new lifeguard stands will protect beachgoers beginning next year at Twin Piers, the site of three erosion control structures popular with surfers.

“I can’t wait for the first day those towers go up,” Manatee County Marine Rescue Chief Joe Westerman said. “They will be operated 365 days a year.”

Manatee County also will rebuild the rest of the stands on Anna Maria Island beaches – six portable stands and the two permanent stands at Coquina Beach and Manatee Beach, he said, adding the structures are nearly 30 years old, some with termites.

The new stands should last longer than 30 years, Westerman said, and feature a new, lifeguard-friendly design that prevents glare and increases air flow with solar-powered exhaust fans to help move the air in the non-air conditioned stands.

Construction is expected to begin early next year, with new lifeguards anticipated in April, he said.

Lifeguards are needed at Twin Piers (a third “pier” was added after the name stuck) because the piers cause limited visibility at the popular beach, he said. The county replaced the three crumbling erosion control structures with three permeable, adjustable erosion control groins in 2016 to protect Gulf Drive from stormwater erosion.

Proceeds from the half-cent sales tax increase that raised the county sales tax to 7 percent will pay for the project. The Manatee County Public Safety Department, which includes Marine Rescue, and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office share 15 percent of the proceeds, with 71 percent allocated to transportation and 14 percent to parks and community facilities.

Efforts to use tourist tax funds to pay for lifeguard salaries and infrastructure failed due to state statutory constraints on the expenditure of tourist tax proceeds.

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