Collier County seeks to net fishing piers for Marco Island’s Jolley Bridge

Jack Cox, 59, of Golden Gate Estates, goes fishing near the broken pier under Marco Island's Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge Wednesday morning. The fishing piers, one that spans on each side under the bridge, will not be replaced as part of the $28.3 million stimulus budget for the bridge's new span and existing span refurbishment.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

Jack Cox, 59, of Golden Gate Estates, goes fishing near the broken pier under Marco Island's Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge Wednesday morning. The fishing piers, one that spans on each side under the bridge, will not be replaced as part of the $28.3 million stimulus budget for the bridge's new span and existing span refurbishment.

— Collier County transportation officials are fishing for dollars to replace piers at Marco Island’s Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge.

The two fishing piers under the bridge were destroyed by Hurricane Wilma in 2004. After being closed to the public for years, they were removed when construction of the stimulus project to expand the bridge began in January.

There wasn’t enough money to cover the cost of replacing the fishing piers in Florida Department of Transportation’s $28.3 million stimulus budget for project, which will expand the bridge from two lanes to four lanes.

Collier County Commissioner Jim Coletta asked if money could be found elsewhere.

“I’m an access person, access to public land, to beaches. This is a matter of access for the average individual,” Coletta said.

About 70 grant possibilities offered by government agencies, foundations and non profit organizations are being investigated to help pay for the piers, Collier County Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Phil Tindall advised the county commission on Tuesday.

“Of course, those grants will probably come with a local matching fund requirement,” he said. “Collier County may look to Marco,”

Several Marco Island City Council members are amenable to the idea. Funding, nonetheless, remains a challenge for city, county and state level governments.

When the fishing piers were destroyed by Hurricane Wilma, grants were available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. However, those grants would likely only cover a portion of the cost of replacing and maintaining the fishing piers at the time, said FDOT spokeswoman Debbie Tower, of District 1, which includes Collier and Lee counties.

The other three government levels couldn’t coordinate in time to snag the grants during what Tindall described as a “very short window of time.”

Until 2004, FDOT was maintaining the piers, but because they are an amenity, they lost priority among transportation projects, said Tower.

Marco Island and Collier County elected officials have since expressed a willingness to maintain their corresponding jurisdiction’s pier on each side of the bridge.

Netting the cash to build them is the challenge now.

Marco Island City Council Chairman Frank Recker said he supported MPO looking for options and thought Marco would come to the table if needed.

“You always used to see kids out there with their families,” Recker said. “It’s been a great loss.”

Councilman Jerry Gibson agreed, saying he was disappointed a spot for anglers wasn’t kept in the original project scope.

Johnson Brothers and FIGG presented the only bid under budget at $25.5 million, not including $2.5 million for inspection and project management, Tower said. It didn’t include fishing piers at that price.

There was about $540,000 left over and the MPO reallocated that in September 2009 to repair the Mooring Line Drive bridge in Naples.

Wayne Jenkins, born and raised in Naples, prodded the county commission to continue their quest to replace the piers.

“There is no doubt there is a need for the catwalks,” Jenkins said. “I call ‘em catwalks, the fishing piers. Not a place to walk your cats out on the bridge.”

Jenkins isn’t alone in his support.

“My God, we’re an island, we ought to have a place to fish,” Gibson said.

The fishing piers were once believed to cost about $1.2 million, Tower had said. However, after receiving bids for the bridge expansion project, that estimate jumped closer to $6 million.

FDOT doesn’t have the money to build fishing piers, Tower said. “We’re focused on using available resources for transportation projects,” she said.

An approximate $160 million sweep of the state transportation trust fund may be coming down the pipeline, Tower added, leaving no room to consider recreational upgrades, despite their popularity.

Commissioner Donna Fiala suggested that with construction projects costing less these days, perhaps money would be left over from the bridge expansion project.

There is no chance, Tower said. The contract between Johnson Brothers and FIGG is final, and any savings will be kept by the contractors, she said.

Tindall will move forward seeking grants as the commissioners requested on Tuesday, but there is some sense that the notion may be pie in the sky.

“It’s a very difficult time to try to spend money on something like that— something that’s not health and safety,” Tindall said.

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Comments » 2

GBR writes:

Commissioner Donna Fiala suggested that with construction projects costing less these days, perhaps money would be left over from the bridge expansion project.

That is one scary comment. And to think she has a say in how our tax money is spent.

;-)

happy6 writes:

finally they might do something the people want...a simple way to pay is charge a nominal fee...$2.00...for a day pass to fish the pier...afterall they charge to launch a boat....just please, please...don't let Quality build the thing.

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