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Repair work slow at Vero City Marina


Desperately needed, oft-delayed renovations have, at long last, begun at the Vero Beach City Marina.

Dangerously rotted, broken docks have been repaired and the notoriously shabby, badly-damaged, 30-year-old north restrooms have been “gutted to the studs” in preparation for a total re-do, after the City Council awarded the $114,600 renovation contract to Vero Beach-based Bill Bryant Construction.

The job was supposed to be completed within an 80-day window following contract signing on May 31, but work was temporarily halted when far more water damage than anticipated was found inside the restroom walls and project plans had to be redrawn and resubmitted to the county. 

The county is in possession of the updated plans and is expected to sign off on them soon, so work can resume, says Harbormaster and Marina Director Tim Grabenbauer, who optimistically anticipates the project, even with the recent delay, will be completed by this fall before the busy boating season begins in November.

The north restrooms, which grew shabbier as time and patchworked repairs took their toll, had become the object of numerous complaints in recent years. Many residents – including boaters living at the marina and civic boosters concerned about the impression created by a city marina in disrepair – questioned why it was taking so long to accomplish the obviously much-needed renovation.

The restrooms were slated for replacement in 2007, but the project was put on hold when the national economy tanked, and marine tourism dropped.  As an enterprise fund, the marina is expected to operate on the income it generates, and it wasn't generating enough for major renovations.

Even after the economy bounced back, Grabenbauer spent years “playing catch-up” with other necessary repairs, leaving the restrooms in a shamble.

The danger inherent in the marina’s dilapidation was highlighted two years ago when a finger dock collapsed from under a boater, flinging the woman and her dog into the water amidst jagged metal and wooden debris.

The situation was exacerbated by wind and water damage from hurricanes Matthew and Irma, in 2016 and 2017, and the fact that the marina was staggering under the debt service on a $4.7 million loan obtained in 2007 to purchase a dry storage facility, a debt the marina will continue to pay off for another decade. 

Funds for the restroom renovation materials were allocated in the 2016-2017 FY budget but, by the time materials and fixtures were ordered and delivered, it was the midst of the busy boating season. Not wanting to close half the available restrooms, Grabenbauer opted to wait till season was over. 

That pushed restroom repairs back until this year.

Grabenbauer said this year’s prolonged repair process should not cause a problem this fall. With kids back in school, the recreational boater traffic will drop even further, so that the south restrooms should be sufficient until repairs are complete.