MANATEE -- The saga of Dreammaker, an abandoned floating house that was once meant to be someone’s vacation and retirement dream, seems to be headed for a final chapter of removal and disposal.
After being set adrift by storms, the damaged vessel has been sitting for months between spans of the Interstate 75 bridge in Ellenton that carries traffic over the Manatee River.
The owners had dogs living on the house and came daily to feed them and give them fresh water, one of the owners told the Herald months ago.
But on Oct. 5, Dreammaker was posted by county code enforcement for removal, giving its owners five days to rescue it, said Alan Lai Hipp, Manatee County’s marine resources coordinator in the natural resources department.
When code enforcement officers posted the house, they noticed the dogs were gone.
“That’s a pretty good indicator,” Hipp said, when asked if he thought the owners had given up and abandoned the house.
Hipp and other staff members are preparing to come before Manatee commissioners on Nov. 8 and ask them to approve a low bid of $14,750 from Palmetto’s Quality Marine Construction to completely dispose of the floating structure, Hipp said.
The only other bid came in at roughly $17,000, Hipp added.
Having taxpayers bear the burden is not a happy thought, Hipp said, but leaving nature to dismantle the vessel is worse.
“It’s important that we deal with it now while it’s intact,” Hipp said. “If we get a major storm and it disintegrates, you have large pieces of wood floating in the river and a serious threat to boating.”
The house has no fuel tanks since it had no self-propulsion and some of the insides seem to have been gutted by the owners, perhaps in an attempt to lighten it, Hipp said.
Experts from Quality Marine Construction, which has done abandoned vessel removal for the county in the past, have decided they will take the second story off the house and try to float the bottom portion out, Hipp said.
“I was told the bottom of the platform has so many holes, there is no way to float the whole thing,” Hipp said. “If they can’t float it out, they will take it apart right there piece by piece.”
Former Manatee resident Stacey Renee Clements, who told the Herald several months ago that she owned the house, did not return a call for comment Tuesday.
She had earlier said the house has a big hole in one of its twin, pontoon-like boat hulls that has to be repaired before she could move it; she said she did intend to fix the boat.
Clements attended Palmetto and Southeast high schools in the late 1970s, grew up on the Manatee River, and wanted an affordable place on the river. She saw the house for sale on the Internet.
Clements said she wanted to move the house to Terra Ceia and anchor it.
“We’ve got too much money invested,” Clements said several months ago. The asking price for the two-bedroom, two-bath house was $80,000. “We can’t stop now.”
But it appears that Clements couldn’t accomplish her mission.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.