The north side of Redington Long Pier in Redington Shores is pounded by Tropical Storm Alberto.
Photo courtesy of TOWN OF REDINGTON SHORES
Two pilings and a brace wash up on the beach.
REDINGTON SHORES – The Redington Long Pier has been closed indefinitely until damage from Tropical Storm Alberto can be assessed, Mayor Jody Armstrong said.
It was shut down on Wednesday morning, June 14, by the town’s building official Steve Andrews, the day after winds from Alberto swept through the area.
Andrews said that residents reported seeing pieces of the pier washed up along the shoreline several blocks north of the structure. After an inspection of the pier revealed that piling pieces had come off, Andrews ordered the closure, he said. He added that he shut down the pier in the interest of public safety.
Meanwhile, the pier’s owner is disputing its closing, saying the move was inspired by his recent refusal to allow the Redingtons’ upcoming Fourth of July fireworks display to take place on the structure as it has in the past.
He also believes that county interests see the closure as a means to acquire the pier at a bargain price.
Pier concerns predate storm
Concerns about the pier’s condition predate last week’s storm. In May 2005, Pinellas County engineers inspected the pier and found several “structurally suspect conditions,” according to a memorandum issued at that time by division engineer Tony Horrnik.
A letter from Environmental Program manager David L. Walker to pier owner Tony Antonious dated April 27 this year revealed further problems. The letter identifies “a number of areas of concern” with the structure and goes on to state, “A number of repairs have been done on the pier over the past few years without benefit of a permit, which may place (Antonious) in violation of the Pinellas County Water and Navigation Control Authority regulations.”
In the letter, Antonious is required to obtain “a thorough review of the structural condition and repair needs of the pier by a Florida Registered structural engineer” and to submit that review, along with an application for a repair permit, to county authorities.
Walker goes on to say that the engineer’s review must address recommendations for bringing the structure into a safe condition.
Antonious was given 10 days after receipt of the April 27 letter to respond to its terms.
Walker said in an interview on June 16 that he had spoken with Antonious shortly after the letter was sent out and was assured that an engineer was “looking at the plans.”
Walker said he had heard nothing further on the matter until that morning, June 16, when Antonious informed him that “an engineer is out here now.” Antonious said that a report on the pier’s condition would be forthcoming late that day.
Closure not necessary, pier’s owner says
Pier owner Antonious acknowledged in a telephone interview that what he termed “minor repairs” to the pier were needed. But he strongly denied that any damage or structural deficiencies were major enough to warrant a shutdown.
Antonious said that the pilings found on the beach following Tropical Storm Alberto were old ones that had been replaced but not removed.
“(The pilings) were hanging on, it is good they washed away,” he said.
Antonious sees the closing of the pier as retribution for his refusal to allow the facility to be the site of the Redingtons’ annual fireworks display. The pier had been the traditional location for the event until a dispute earlier this year over an ice machine on the pier property, which caused Antonious to cancel the fireworks. (The fireworks display will be held this year at County Park.)
Antonious said that the county had negotiated to buy the pier six months ago, and made an offer which he described as “way below market value.” He speculated that the pier closure could also be a ploy to get him to sell.
“If they close me down, I will get desperate to sell,” he said.
Antonious said that repairs to the pier are performed as needed on an ongoing basis by several repair people under contract, which he described as volunteers. Antonious’ submerged land lease allows him to do repairs without a permit, he said.
An engineer who he describes as “the best in Pinellas County” is currently inspecting the pier and has given him a list of needed repairs, Antonious said. He described the repair work as minor and said it had nothing to do with closing the pier.
Antonious said he was shut down because “they got mad because of the Fourth of July and are trying to take over the pier cheap.”
Pier’s condition ‘a real concern’
Walker, the Pinellas County environmental manager, said of the pier’s current condition, “We’ve got real concerns down there.”
Walker said that a year had passed since the county’s inspection which had indicated problems with the structure.
“We did not feel there was an imminent danger at that point, but here it is a year later. We need an engineer’s review without delay,” Walker said.
As of Monday, June 19, Walker said that he had heard nothing from Antonious or his engineer on the status of the requested review.
Steve Andrews of Redington Shores confirmed on Monday that the pier will remain closed until its condition can be verified as safe.
The Redington Long Pier is the last public fishing pier left along the barrier islands. In the years following World War II, such piers dotted the Pinellas shoreline and were a major tourist draw to the area.