MANATEE — Manatee County commissioners approved Tuesday spending $1.52 million to replace the popular but unstable pier on Manatee Beach in Holmes Beach.
The existing pier was closed to the public in early February after structural cracks and corrosion were discovered during an inspection in January.
Charlie Hunsicker, director of the county conservation lands management department, said the structure, built in 1990, could collapse without any indication or warning.
“We all have recollections of bridges collapsing under their own weight for no apparent reason,” Hunsicker said. “Such was the experience recently with the bridge over Interstate 35 in Minneapolis/St. Paul.”
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Engineers from Bridge Design Associates Inc. offered the commissioners three options:
n Repairing the existing structure at the cost of $1.72 million
n Replacing the pier deck and using the existing pilings for just more than $2 million
n Replacing it with a higher pier at $1.52 million.
The engineers said the lower cost to completely replace, as opposed to the first two options, was due to the new design having fewer pilings and pile caps.
The replacement pier will be 7 feet higher, putting it 15 feet above the mean high tide.
The board unanimously decided to take the third option and even asked the staff to look into lengthening the pier 100 feet.
Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who was mayor of Holmes Beach before being elected to the board, said she was happy the rest of the board decided to replace the island landmark.
“That pier has been a tourist attraction well over 50 years,” Whitmore said. “It’s part of Anna Maria Island.”
She said the pier is a destination for visitors to the island and is important to the tourist economy that the county depends on.
Hunsicker said getting state permits for the new pier will take about four months and construction will be about four to six months.
“It’ll be up and standing before our peak tourist season,” he said.
Even though the replacement pier will be 7-feet higher, the incline will be gradual and the access ramp will have non-skid surface in compliance with Americans with Disability Act regulations.
The decking and handrails will be wooden and the pier will be 18 feet wide,
Hunsicker said the new pier will provide 30-40 years of recreation for the community.