BRADENTON BEACH – The new floating public dock next to the historic Bridge Street Pier is now open and being used by boaters.
The Hecker Construction Company completed the dock installation last week and City Commissioner and Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) chairman Ralph Cole led a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, Aug. 2. Cole thanked Manatee County officials for partnering with the CRA on the dock project.
Friday morning’s attendees included CRA and city commission members John Chappie and Jake Spooner, Manatee County Commissioners Betsy Benac, Steve Jonsson and Carol Whitmore, Deputy County Administrator John Osborne, Manatee County Tourist Development Council member Eric Cairns, congressional aide Gary Tibbetts, Anna Maria Oyster Bar president and pier tenant John Horne, Anna Maria Oyster Bar managing partner Lynn Horne, Bridge Street Merchants Vice President and Paradise Boat Tours’ General Manager and pier sub-tenant Sherman Baldwin, City Attorney Ricinda Perry, City Treasurer Shayne Thompson and several others.
Before Cole cut the ribbon, John Horne produced a tray of Bloody Marys and proposed a toast.
The new dock replaces the storm-damaged floating dock removed from that location in 2016. The new floating dock is 10 feet wide, approximately 256 feet long and once again provides recreational boaters with free short-term dockage.
It also provides limited short-term dockage for tour boats, water taxis and other commercial vessels to load and unload passengers. Fishing and overnight docking are prohibited on the new dock.
After the ribbon cutting, attendees walked down the gangplank and onto the new dock.
“It took a while, but it looks awesome. This was a team effort that included all our department heads and especially our police chief, Sam Speciale,” Cole said.
Cole also mentioned the public discussions and strategic efforts CRA members and city staff engaged in during the past two and a half years that ultimately resulted in the long-delayed dock project being completed without any lawsuits filed.
“The process was frustrating at times, but thanks to our CRA board, our city attorney and our city staff we now have one of the best publicly-owned docking sites on the west coast of Florida,” Spooner said.
“It’s been a long time coming and we’re glad the county was able to work with the city to get this floating dock. It’s another example of everybody working together toward the common good of Anna Maria Island,” Whitmore said.
“This is fabulous. It’s going to be phenomenal to see the boats back out here again this weekend. It’s going to bring people to Bridge Street. People enjoy going places by water and this will help get some cars off the road,” John Horne said.
“This is a big day for all of Bridge Street. This is even better than I expected,” Baldwin said.
As a boater, Baldwin said he appreciates the rubber rub rail running along the outer edge of the dock that will help prevent docked boats from getting scuffed up.
“This connects the Island to Tampa, St. Pete., Clearwater and other places you can come from by boat. There’s great shopping and restaurants here and they can even go to the Moose Lodge,” charter fishing Captain Scott Moore said.
“It’s another great day for the city,” Perry said.
“This is a great example of what working as a team can accomplish,” Thompson added.
“I’m glad to see that this project finally came to a long-overdue completion,” Speciale said later in the day.
During the previous night’s city commission meeting, Chappie thanked Cole for his efforts.
“It’s been a long struggle. I know it’s a team effort, but you have to have a leader. Great job,” Chappie said.
The CRA and Manatee County co-funded the dock project. According to Thompson, the final cost is $191,524. That is $71,544 more than the $119,980 originally contracted with the North Palm Beach-based Technomarine Group in early 2017.
In 2017, county commissioners agreed to reimburse the CRA for half of a dock project’s total cost, not to exceed $250,000. That agreement, which was later renewed, means the CRA and the county are each contributing $95,762 to the project. The county’s contribution comes from the 5 percent tourist tax levied countywide on hotels, motels and vacation rentals.
Earlier this year, the CRA discontinued its contractual relationship with Technomarine due to the prolonged and ongoing delays. The CRA then turned to the Gibsonton-based Hecker Construction Group to install the dock decking sections previously premanufactured by Spain-based Ronautica Marinas and shipped to Florida in mid-2018.
As the city’s Pier Team facilitator, Speciale served as the primary project liaison until mid-April. Cole, Perry, Thompson and Building Official Steve Gilbert then guided the project to its completion.