Flagler Beach Commission votes to build 800 foot, $ 12.5 million concrete pier replacement

Flagler Beach Pier will be demolished and rebuilt into an 800-foot concrete pier, with $ 10 million in federal funds already allocated and $ 2.5 million in money the city has yet to find. The city hopes the new, more hurricane-resistant pier will be completed by the time Flagler Beach marks its centenary in 2024.

The Flagler Beach City Commission at a special meeting Wednesday night took a series of four votes to move forward with the plan. The meeting followed a 70-minute, hour-long workshop in which City Manager William Whitson described city options and Allison Taylor, Office of Recovery Specialist in the Emergency Management Division of the State, explained why the city stood at risk of losing that $ 10 million, and why one approach was more cautious than another.

“You know, Matthew is in 2016. We’re moving further and further away from that initial reporting date. And the further away you get, the less, I guess, FEMA is skeptical of deadline extensions, ”Taylor said.

The pier lost 163 of its 800 feet during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The Federal Emergency Management Administration awarded the city $ 10 million for a replacement at the time. But the city did not move forward, putting the money in danger of being reallocated. The city must file an extension with FEMA to ensure the money is not lost. In good faith, the commission organized what turned out to be one of its less publicized workshops and meetings, dealing with one of the city’s most important issues, directly impacting residents. of the city and on the identity of the city. Only a handful of people not associated with government agencies attended the workshop and meeting.

The committee’s four votes were all unanimous, reflecting unanimity and the desire to move forward. And the meeting was attended by Deputy County Administrator Jorge Salinas and County Emergency Management Chief Jonathan Lord, a sign of the county’s involvement and willingness to help.

Salinas spoke briefly to the committee about the money. “In terms of financial support, it will have to come to the commissioners for them to look at and examine it,” he said. Randy Stapleford, a representative from Representative Mike Waltz’s office, who represents Flagler, was also in attendance. “When it comes to the delays, there are enough reasons why there has been a delay with Covid,” he said.

Covid has been the go-to explanation for the countless delays, but it’s also true that the pier reconstruction project was on City Manager Larry Newsom’s priority list, but had not moved forward even in the pre-covid years. Newsom had in mind a 1,000-foot concrete jetty that would be built alongside the old one.

In the course of 2016 or 2017, the city got a contract from the state allowing it to proceed with the first option, Lord said. “Unfortunately, no action really took place. So that’s in the eyes of the state and FEMA, they say okay, all those years have gone by and Flagler Beach still hasn’t moved forward.

Whitson presented two options to the commissioners on Wednesday. Option A would preserve the first 100 feet of the wooden structure, as a nod to its historicity. The remainder would be replaced and extended to the length of the pre-2004 concrete jetty. The pier was 800 feet before the 2004 hurricane season. (It is now 637 feet tall. It reopened in June 2017, eight months after Hurricane Matthew cut it off and forced it to close.)

The second option was to preserve the original pier and build a new concrete pier of equal length (not 1,000 feet, as Newsom imagined) closely to the south and parallel to it. As officials discussed on Wednesday, this option was fraught with risks and uncertainties.

Taylor strongly discouraged the city from going with the second option.
“If your costs were higher, you won’t get more money than the project originally offered,” she said. She cautioned the commission against long delays for environmental reviews by many regulators. “When you work with so many parties, it can take a long time. There was no guarantee that the state would grant the land south of the pier to build a second pier. And option B would not require an environmental review, since it is only a replacement of an existing structure.

Lord also discouraged the second option. It has no provision for cost overruns. Option A has these allowances.

“If you stick with Option A, because that’s the original footprint that brings you back to where you are, but better and stronger with concrete,” Lord said, “if there is has cost overruns, justifiable cost overruns that are documented, purchased the right way, one of the things Allison mentioned is the fact that you can come back to FEMA at the end of the day and make it up , say hey, we ended up eating half a million dollars, over a million dollars, and then you justify – why? because concrete costs twice as much as it started in the process.

Lord said it was also possible for the state to bear 12.5% ​​of the cost, leaving the rest to the city.

The plan would be for a jetty 800 feet long, 25 feet wide, with a “T” end 17 feet by 31 feet. That’s why FEMA gave the city $ 10 million.

There are two different ways to measure the pier. One is from the pier’s own gated entrance. The other is from the sidewalk. If measured from the sidewalk, the 800 feet the commission voted on Wednesday would mean the resulting pier is shorter than it was before 2004.

Johnston called Option B a “gamble,” as it would involve higher costs to build the parallel jetty and future costs if the existing jetty were damaged again by a storm – as is certain.

“If we go for option B, do we have a long-term plan for the old pier? Asked the mayor. “Because you know the structure is weakened and once it becomes unusable or uninsurable, do we have a plan to take it down, or are we just going to let it stay and become an eyesore?” The city, Whitson said, is expected to withdraw it and possibly face withdrawal fees. One time certainty: storms will damage the pier. He suffered losses in 1944, 1960, 1964, 1984 and so on.

Documentation for Wednesday’s meeting referred to another loss in 2005. But it was in 2004 when Florida was hit by four hurricanes – Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne – and the pier lost 144 feet. Françoise was the culprit. In October, the commission awarded a $ 259,000 contract to John Toft Construction Inc. of New Smyrna Beach to repair and restore the pier. John Toft had made several repairs to the pier after previous storms, including after Hurricane Floyd damaged 600 feet of the pier. Even then, the fishermen complained that the city did not reinforce the pier with concrete. The reason was the price. It would have cost three times as much.

Commissioner Jane Mealy – who moments earlier had actually favored Option B – proposed Option A, which was quickly approved. The other three motions were more procedural, controlling how the city would find an engineering company and bid on the project through what Whitson called the “traditional” RFP process, ordering the manager to lobby for it. the remaining funds required. The manager was also invited by a unanimous vote to request an extension of FEMA funds.

“We are now going for the pier,” Commission Chairman Eric Cooley said.

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