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PR facing pricey waterfront issues

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Published:   |   Updated: August 30, 2013 at 11:48 AM

PORT RICHEY — For a town billing itself as a waterfront community, Port Richey officials ruefully noted Tuesday night, both of its fishing piers are closed for the foreseeable future.

Safety concerns forced the closure earlier this year of the pier at Waterfront Park, on Old Post Road, northwest of the intersection of U.S. 19 and Grand Boulevard.

The Limestone Drive pier, on an old bridge, also has structural problems that at least need buttressing, city council members noted. Council was meeting as the board of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency.

In addition, the boat ramp at Nicks Park, at 7929 Bayview St., remains open but needs repairs.

While funds could become available to design improvements, nobody quite knows where money would come from to rebuild the facilities.

City officials also hesitated to move forward Tuesday because of many questions about property ownership at the piers and ramp. Jurisdiction over any construction permits raised some doubts as well.

A special CRA meeting could take place Tuesday, Sept. 10, after the regular city council meeting to try to resolve the issues.

“I feel compelled to move forward,” City Manager Tom O’Neill said in introductory remarks. “It bothers me” both piers are closed.

The city faces the greatest expense to tear down and rebuild the Waterfront Park pier. Engineering firm WadeTrim has estimated the plans alone for demolition of the existing pier would cost $13,200.

Tampa-based WadeTrim would charge $42,340 to design repairs of the existing pier or a replacement structure. City officials were leaning toward replacement Tuesday night.

The Limestone Drive pier would cost $9,985 for a structural assessment by WadeTrim.

Jacksonville-based Taylor Engineering submitted an estimate of $23,024 for limited site inspection, data collection and written assessment of the boat ramp.

“There were construction problems from the get-go,” O’Neill said about the existing Waterfront Park pier.

The bid award for construction happened in early 2003, the city manager reports. The city, however, has no record of engineering certification that the pier met specifications once it was built.

O’Neill, who was not Port Richey city manager 10 years ago, doubts that the pier pilings were driven 10 feet deep, per the project’s specifications.

Councilman Terrence Rowe wondered if the city might try to prove faulty work and recover some of its initial cost. O’Neill replied the chances were “slim and next to none” to recover any money.

The city would have to prove hidden defects of the existing pier, City Attorney Joseph Poblick advised, but officials would have to locate original contracts.

The Waterfront Park pier would require a state permit for demolition of the existing structure since it extends into state waters, O’Neill said.

“It’s not much different than dredging,” Councilman Bill Colombo said about getting permits for Waterfront Park pier construction.

“Engineering is always expensive,” Colombo said, adding, however, a “waterfront community is what we’re all about.”

If the city opts to replace the pier at Waterfront Park, Colombo would prefer a shorter and wider structure. The current pier was designed to extend far out into the coastal waters because of the shallow depth around it.

Perhaps the pier could move to a more suitable area of the park with deeper water if the structure is rebuilt, some suggested.

A long-range master plan for Waterfront Park already included concepts to improve the pier. Actual construction costs haven’t been calculated, but city officials mentioned a figure of about a quarter of a million dollars.

The city has applied for three grants to help rebuild the Waterfront Park pier, O’Neill emphasized.

Construction of some 10 major features could spread out over the next decade at Waterfront Park, master plan architects said in May. If built all at once, the total cost could roughly amount to $2.4 million.

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