Anna Maria year in review

AM Pier rendering

ANNA MARIA – The replacement of the Anna Maria City Pier, the red tide cleanup, increased drainage and paving expenditures, beach access rights and city-hosted special events were among the city’s newsmakers in 2018.

Red tide cleanup

While county crews attended to the cleanup of Anna Maria’s Gulfside beaches, Mayor Dan Murphy called on Cortez commercial fishermen Nathan Meschelle and Michael Dolan in early August to remove dead fish and seagrass from the city’s north shoreline, near the former and future site of the Anna Maria City Pier. Meschelle and Dolan were joined by Cortez fishermen Tanner Pelkey and Matt Smith for a second cleanup effort later that month.

During August and September, the Gulf of Mexico shoreline between Bean Point and the Sandbar restaurant was often littered with dead fish, crabs, eels and other sea life, but the constant cleanup efforts of Manatee County surf rake operator Mark Taylor made the beaches still useable for residents and visitors.

Pier replacement

When 2018 began, the Anna Maria City Pier, built in 1911, was still standing as plans were being made to replace it with a new pier. After the engraved wooden planks were removed, the pier was demolished in July.

In late November, the City Commission authorized a $3.33 million contract with the i+iconSoutheast construction firm to build the new pier platform and decking.

The first pilings are scheduled to be driven during the third week of January and the project is to be completed by late August. The new pier will feature IPE hardwood decking atop concrete spun pilings, designed to resemble the old pier.

A separate request for proposals will be issued at some point in early 2019 for the construction of the building at the pier’s T-end that will house a restaurant, bait shop and restrooms. The pier replacement project is expected to be fully completed by December, if not sooner.

City improvements

In October, the initial section of the city’s new multi-use trail opened. Located along the northeastern edge of Gulf Drive, the trail begins at the entrance to the city and extends north to Willow Avenue, which leads to North Shore Drive and provides pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists and others with an escape from the heavy traffic and limited space along Gulf Drive.

When adopting the 2018-19 fiscal year budget in September, the mayor and commission increased drainage and stormwater improvement expenditures from $589,000 to $845,000. Street paving expenditures were increased from $318,000 to $643,000.

Soon after the year began, the commission supported the mayor’s suggestion that the city’s annual vacation rental registration fees be based on occupancy rather than the one-size-fits-all fee levied in previous years.

Beach access

In April, concerns were raised as to whether a private property owner was trying to prevent passersby from walking on the state-owned shoreline that lies seaward of the mean high-water line along South Bay Boulevard. A resident and a visiting friend told the City Commission the property owner yelled at them and told them to leave his property. The property owner later said he did not yell at anyone and was simply trying to protect his property rights. In May, Mayor Dan Murphy expended city funds to have the property line in question surveyed and there has been no further public discussion.

City events

As part of the mayor and commission’s desire to use City Pier Park, the city-sponsored, Tuesday-morning farmer’s market opened beneath the shade sail in March. After stopping for the summer months, the market resumed in October.

The city’s Wednesday evening Movies in the Park film screenings began in January, stopped when Daylight Saving Time took effect in March and resumed in December.

In November, the city hosted is second annual Old Soldiers & Sailors Parade that traveled down Pine Avenue and ended at City Pier Park, where a veteran’s ceremony followed.

Elections and appointments

In early November, Mayor Dan Murphy and commissioners Amy Tripp and Brian Seymour were elected to additional two-year terms after running unopposed in the city elections.

In December, the commission appointed the volunteer Charter Review Committee that will spend the first part of 2019 reviewing the city charter.