The fishing pier at Jenkins Creek Park will be reconstructed so long as the project can be funded by revenue from the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States (RESTORE) Act.
The Act provides funding for 23 Florida Gulf Coast counties, including Hernando County, for, among other things, infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and port facilities; and facilities and programs to promote tourism and the region’s fishing and aquaculture industries. Funding for the Act is derived from civil and administrative penalties obtained from those responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
In order to receive RESTORE funding, communities must “advertise” their projects through a public engagement process. Administration of the grants takes place through the Office of Gulf Coast Restoration of the Department of the Treasury.
During its regular Oct. 24 meeting, members of the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners heard County Community Services Director Chris Linsbeck layout options for replacing the 30-year-old pier and a pedestrian bridge that goes over the parking lot to other smaller fishing areas. “We’ve been repairing some of the wooden components as they come off over deterioration, weather, sometimes over decay,” he said. “We received full design on this.”
According to Linsbeck, the pier replacement represents a capital improvement project that went out for construction bid, with the lowest bid coming in at $894,500. The current county budget for the project is $450,000, which includes the design, and purchase order costs of $114,782, leaving a total available amount of $335,782 after the design.
“That leases an additional $558,718 if we were to go forward with this project,” he told the panel. “So we came up with a few options.” Among those options were direct staff to evaluate the current proposal for responsiveness and responsibleness and award the project and with the additional funding from reserves or other General Fund Projects that have not started yet.
County Administrator Jeff Rogers told the Board that projects from Animal Services and improvements to Ernie Weaver Youth Park could be among those put off to redirect funds to the Jenkins Fishing Pier project.
The second option involved taking up just one project – either the fishing pier or the pedestrian bridge – and slating the other for future development.
“But what gets the most use -(the pedestrian bridge) that’s nice, but not everybody can probably walk that?” Commission Chairman John Allocco asked. “ If we’re trying to have opportunities for the most in the community, I think it makes sense to go with the pier first and focus on what the most people in the county can use and then down the road do the other – this way again we’re getting the most of our citizenship to enjoy what we’re spending our money on.”
Linsbeck agreed that the fishing pier should be a priority, given its age and amount of use. “We (the County Community Services Department) have been addressing any issues that are considered unsafe and I don’t think it’s at the stage where it is a full demolition at this stage right now,” he said. “So we could probably get by a little bit longer and budget accordingly and piecemeal this together if we had to.”
The third option before the BOCC would be to consider a review of the project to see if it qualified as a candidate for the RESTORE funding or a Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP) grant. “Under RESTORE funding, we have $1.3 million ready to go,” Linsbeck said.
Commissioner Elizabeth Narverud called that “a much better choice.” “We can look at it and if we don’t get the grants, we can go back to the other (option),” she said. “Any time we could get a grant, I would say ‘do it.’”
According to Linsbeck, the process for obtaining the RESTORE funding would take about 12 months. Commissioner Brian Hawkins asked Linsbeck if his department could maintain the existing fishing pier for at least that length of time. “I think so,” Linsbeck said. “We’ve been keeping up on (it); we’ve been replacing (anything that could be considered hazardous).”
Finally, the Board directed Rogers to advertise the project and for Linsbeck’s staff to put it on its schedule as a project. “We’ll verify with RESTORE; I’ll let you know if anything changes,” Rogers said.
No specific timeline was given for the project’s completion.