Big Dock on the Way?
The Big Dock has been a big headache as FEMA and Levy County officials work to rebuild after Hurricanes Frances and Ivan roared through in 2004. The first bid to rebuild was too high and now the county has decided to try again.
FEMA targeted the project cost at $1.3 million. But the lone bid that came back last month was more than three times at $4.3 million. Locals say the lack of a dock has hurt their business and it's high time to get it done whatever the cost.
Three years after hurricanes damaged Cedar Key's Big Dock, not much has changed. As a result, fishermen have been forced to find other spots to cast their lines. And locals like Juanita Batten say that's hurt business.
"It's up and down," says Batten. "We have our festivals, but it's not like it used to be."
Faye Fenton has grown up here and says the dock is more than a landmark, it was the hub of activity for locals at twilight.
"The sunset on the pier is absolutely gorgeous," says Fenton. "It's kind of a meeting place. You stroll down after dinner and watch the sunset and talk to people you haven't seen in a day or two."
Tuesday morning, Levy County Commissioners voted to send the project out to bid again. The contractor in the lone returned bid refused to itemize his costs for FEMA without an exclusive contract from the county, which county commissioners would not do.
Levy County Parks and Recreation Director Matt Weldon says he fully anticipates the bids to go better this time around because contractors will be allowed to bring in their own ideas to make the project cheaper.
"I just want people to know that we have been working on this project diligently," says Weldon. "It's just been one hump after another that we've been overcoming but it's going to happen."
It couldn't come soon enough for Cedar Key residents like Fenton.
"We'd even be willing to help them if they let us," she says.
Weldon says he hopes to have several bids to choose from by the end of next month. He says FEMA will pick up the entire cost as long as the contractor demonstrates the real price tag--whether it's $4 million or even more.
He says if everything goes smoothly, the Big Dock could be up and running by early next summer.
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV20 News.
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