BRADENTON BEACH – It took two years, but the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) finally has all the parts needed to install a floating public dock next to the Bradenton Beach Pier.
According to police chief and pier team facilitator Sam Speciale, 157 dock floats were delivered to the Hecker Construction Company in Gibsonton on Monday, March 4. Speciale provided CRA members with a project update on Wednesday, March 6.
“Everything is at Hecker. The only thing we have left is the permit,” Speciale told the CRA members.
He said Hecker Operations Manager Eric Shaffer is already working with Building Official Steve Gilbert to acquire the city-issued building permits needed before the dock installation can begin.
Speciale said Hecker’s engineer is now revising the permitting documents and expects to deliver them to Gilbert next week. He also said Shaffer plans to make an onsite visit of the pier next week.
“Hopefully, we will have a date they are going to start to install the day dock,” Speciale said.
CRA member and Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie thanked Speciale and City Attorney Ricinda Perry for their efforts that kept the delayed dock project moving toward its anticipated completion.
Hecker Construction was originally subcontracted by Technomarine to install the dock. Hecker will now work directly with the CRA to complete the dock project.
The new dock will be installed along the south side of the pier in the same location as the original floating dock removed in 2016 due to repeated storm and wave damage.
When installed, the new dock will provide more than 200 feet of free, short-term public docking for recreational boaters.
It will also provide designated short-term docking space for tour boats, water taxis and a proposed high-speed ferry service between Sarasota, Bradenton Beach and Bradenton. The lack of adequate dockage in Bradenton Beach delayed the anticipated start of the ferry service by more than a year, according to Paradise Boat Tours General Manager Sherman Baldwin.
Baldwin noted that for the past two years his passengers and other local tour boat passengers have had to embark and disembark from the nearby city-owned dock often referred to as the “dinghy dock.”
Baldwin said a return to the floating dock will make it much easier for tour boat passengers to get on and off the boats, especially for those with disabilities.
“In terms of the ferry business, my partners have been waiting patiently for a place for us to dock in Bradenton Beach and it looks like that’s going to happen,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin has already secured ferry docking locations in Sarasota and Bradenton. He said he now hopes to launch the ferry service during the peak tourist season of 2020.
“We’re masters of our own fate now. We have what we need and it’s exciting to see this thing is finally going to happen,” Baldwin said. “I commend the CRA. In light of some real challenges they kept pushing and it looks like that patience has paid off.”
Anna Maria Oyster Bar president and former CRA member John Horne said this is the best news he’s heard in 18 months. His Bradenton Beach restaurant operates in pier-based space leased from the city.
“We’re looking forward to our guests and all those who love Bridge Street returning by boat and helping reduce some of the auto traffic. We get several calls a week asking about dockage and we can’t wait to christen the new floating dock,” Horne said.
The CRA entered into the dock contract with Technomarine in early 2017. The first anticipated installation date was September-October of that year. Manufacturing delays that Technomarine attributed to Hurricane Irma were then followed by several other delays and missed deadlines.
Providing the floats fulfills Technomarine’s contractual obligations and allows for the finalization of the CRA-approved mutual release and settlement agreement that Perry and Technomarine attorney Julianne Frank negotiated last December.
Approximately $36,000 of the $119,980 originally budgeted for the CRA-funded dock project remains available for the permitting and installation phases. Manatee County is reimbursing the CRA for half the project costs using funds generated by the 5 percent tourist tax.