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Neighborhood Report

Pier in need of repairs

Two 40-foot sections are blocked off as the city plans to make emergency repairs to the decades-old pier.

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 27, 2002

Every year, the pirates of Gasparilla walk the Ballast Point Pier to kick off the big party. Hundreds of people watch.

They never knew it, but the pier was groaning beneath their feet.

In October, a city-hired consultant concluded most of the pier is in serious need of repair, with some pilings "severely degraded."

Two weeks ago, two 40-foot sections were blocked off and posted with warning signs.

Now the city is seeking emergency repairs so the structure is sound enough for the pirate walk Feb. 1.

City officials said the pier is not in imminent danger of collapse.

"We wanted to err on the side of being cautious," said Jack Morris, city public works director.

The immediate repairs are expected to cost about $100,000.

But the consultant, Moffatt & Nichol Engineers, recommended $432,000 worth of work phased in over several years.

On Dec. 12, City Council waived bidding rules so a contractor could be hired immediately. Work should begin by the end of the month and finish by the end of January.

The 975-foot-long pier, popular with sightseers and fishermen, is 70 to 80 years old, the consultant estimated. It was originally built as a loading dock for ships carrying ballasts.

Inspections in September showed most of the concrete is riddled with cracks and in "poor to fair condition," the consultant's report said.

Some pilings are in even worse shape.

On several, "2 to 4 foot sections of rebar were exposed and in some instances, full sections of rebar had corroded away," the report said.

The consultant recommended that the most seriously damaged pilings be "jacketed" with fresh concrete.

Neighbors are glad the city found the problem when it did.

"I'm pleased the city caught it," said Gene Wells, president of the Ballast Point Neighborhood Association. "The pier is one of our high points."

The blocked-off portions are 100 feet from the end, on either side of the walkway. People can still walk between the sections.

No other areas needed immediate attention, Morris said. But the entire pier will be re-evaluated after major storms.

-- Staff writer Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or .

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