BRADENTON BEACH -- Mayor William "Bill" Shearon peered at the large mural in his office Wednesday afternoon.
It depicts him standing on a wooden deck beside Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale with Shearon's guide dog, Reese, sitting between them. The real focus in the painting by local artist Pat O'Neill is the city pier -- best known as the Historic Bridge Street Pier. The water below the bridge is painted an Easter egg blue and three young children fish close by.
"When I ran as mayor, I was disappointed because the pier had been shut down for a year," Shearon said. "One of my main goals was to get it back."
That same pier in O'Neill's artwork is at the center of a long-awaited reconstruction. Proposals are already in for the renovation after sealed bids were opened April 21 at a public meeting.
Bradenton Beach can choose from five contractors. The lowest base bid amount exceeds $1 million, according to Karen Wilson, construction engineering manager from ZNS Engineering of Bradenton, which was hired by Bradenton Beach to help with the process.
A lot needs to be done to fix the pier, half of which is closed to the public because of damage to pilings deemed unsafe by a building inspector.
Tom Woodard, public works facilities management director for Bradenton Beach, said the structure has been in poor shape for years. As part of the reconstruction, pilings will be replaced and the deck will be replaced with one made from composite wood, he said Wednesday afternoon after a City Pier Team meeting.
"I think the biggest issue is going to be staging," Woodard said. "There's going to be very limited area for them (the construction company) to work."
Woodard said when the city commission approves a company bid, he hopes the renovation will start within a month.
Ellen Scott, 75, thinks the pier should have been reconstructed a while ago. She used to walk down the pier every night but now she can only walk as far as the gate.
"I miss it," the retiree said. "We've been feeling kind of bad because we haven't been able to use it all. It's like a necessity here."
To Shearon, the pier is Bradenton Beach's "diamond in the rough."
"The pier is out by the Intracoastal Waterway so I look at the Intracoastal Waterway as I-75," he said with a chuckle. "This is the focal point of Bradenton Beach."
Amaris Castillo, Law Enforcement/Island Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.