Operator: Jacksonville Beach pier 'falling apart'

Councilman calling on city to make repairs he says are much-needed

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – One of the biggest attractions at Jacksonville Beach is 10 years old -- and needs some major TLC.

The Jacksonville Beach pier opened in 2004, but the pier operator and one Jacksonville city councilman said it's already falling apart and the city needs to take action.

The pier was packed with people fishing and sightseeing Wednesday, and many agreed the city needs to make repairs.

"I think it should've been kept up a little bit better," sightseer Ray Fields said. "You wouldn't have this trouble now."

City Councilman Bill Gulliford agreed. That's why he met Wednesday with officials who have concerns about the future of the pier.

"It is falling apart, and there is not money to repair it," pier operator Vera Bryant said. "Bottom line, that's what the story is." 

There is no annual inspection of the pier. The city staff only come out when called about a problem.

"We've got decking problems. They skipped part of the deck that is deteriorating," Gulliford said. "The entrance looks like the entrance to a prison."

The city has replaced some of the boards, but some of them are splitting. Because of the salt air, the city anticipated that might happen, but Gulliford said repairs are needed now and shouldn't be put off.

"Where is the money they collect going?" Gulliford asked. "It really should be going into a dedicated maintenance fund so that we can continue to upgrade and maintain the pier."

The mayor's office said the city has done some emergency repairs to the deck, spending close to $100,000 last August.

The mayor's staff said they tried to budget more money for repairs but were turned down by the City Council.

Ten percent of the profits from visitors goes back to the city, but Bryant said that money doesn't make its way back to the pier.

"The problem is the city of Jacksonville -- with their budget cuts -- have not allocated money for the repairs that need to be done," Bryant said.

The pier is operated by a company out of South Florida, but the city is working on a new contract and could get a new operator.  

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.