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TDC hears case for longer Manatee Beach pier


BRADENTON - The Manatee Beach pier has to come down.

Charlie Hunsicker, the director of Manatee County Natural Resources, said Monday at the Tourist Development Council meeting that the demolition will begin on Nov. 2 and will be finished by Jan. 15. People might wonder why they can't go on the pier, and the reason is that it could fall down on its own at any time.

"That structure that is there could fall in on its own weight at any moment. That's why it was closed off," he said.

But chairman Carol Whitmore said that the million dollars more needed to rebuilt the pier at 713 feet simply is not available. "I just can't see spending another million dollars for this," she said.

Things might have been different five years ago, she said.

Hunsicker and others had said that with the new height requirements, the pier seems to stop suddenly. The new pier has to be higher to be above the expected waves from a hurricane so that the superstructure - at least - will survive.

And there's another problem, he said. When the pier's underwater structure is removed, beach erosion will increase because they were holding the sand back. And when it's rebuilt, there will be less material used to the holding power will be reduced.

So removing it will make the beach situation worse? asked TDC member Harold Byrd.

Yes, Hunsicker said, but the alternative would be having to remove the wreckage if the pier was kept to preserve the beach, and then it collapsed into the water.

"It's better that we take it out now while it's still standing," he said.

The pier was built in the 1960s, Hunsicker said. "It is a recreational amenity that we have enjoyed for over 25 to 30 years," he said.

The shorter structure is acceptable, he said, even if the 700-foot pier is preferred.

"The permitting for the placement of the new pier will probably take place in May or June of 2010," Hunsicker said. Then there will be another nine months for construction, and the expected completion date is June 2011.

For council member Barbara Rodocker, the question was what this had to do with tourism. "I understand that people like to walk on the pier," she said. "Taking that much money out of our budget really curtails even getting the tourists here."

Whitmore said the pier has a lot to do with tourism based on marketing the destination.

The trouble is that someone has to pay for the replacement pier. The TDC will have to decide whether to pay for it out of tourist dollars.

Rodocker said that it was an issue of the best way to spend the money.


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