County Pier Set to Open July 4th

Last summer, on the Fourth of July weekend, the new Russell Fields Pier opened – also known as the City Pier in Panama City Beach.  And while this year, the Russel Fields Pier, across from Pier Park is all set to open the much anticipated amenities, the County Pier 2 miles east is preparing to open.  On schedule for their first day of operations on July 4th, this summer will be one pier better than last giving local and visiting anglers alike a new place to throw a line.

In 2005, the active hurricane season damaged the 470-foot M.B. Miller Pier (aka the County Pier) beyond repair.  It was demolished shortly after with plans of rebuilding once funding was secured.  Partnering with Panama City Beach, it was decided that a significant amount of engineering and planning money could be saved if they decided on the exact same design for both the M.B. Miller and Russel Fields Pier.

Located just a few minute walk from Shipwreck Island, the new pier is just shy of 1,500 feet long and is designed to withstand the force of a hurricane with minimal damage.  Designed by the same Pensacola firm that designed the Pensacola Pier that sustained only $45,000 in damages in 2005, the new piers in Panama City Beach are made so the planks will easily detach in the event of forceful waves and surge, easily replaced after the storm is gone.

The total cost of this project was $8 million, but would have cost an estimated $10 million had they not partnered with Panama City Beach.

It was recently discussed the option of hosting a series of outdoor summer events at the new pier property since ample parking is nearby.  Some of the events could include beach benefit concerts and festivals that would hopefully still draw tourists despite the looming potential of oil landfall.

The amenities at the foot of the M.B. Miller Pier are not being rebuilt, but the existing facilities will include a bait shop, concession stand and restroom facilities.

The County Pier (M.B. Miller Pier) has been under construction since March 2009.

The 470-foot long concrete M.B. Miller Pier was damaged in 2005 by Hurricane Dennis. Bay County partnered with Panama City Beach to replace the pier with one identical to the Russell Pier at Pier Park on the West End of the beach. The new pier will be 1,500 feet long and is designed to withstand hurricanes, modeled after one in Pensacola that sustained only minor damage in Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

By partnering with Panama City Beach, the county saved some $2.5 million on the pier’s construction. The design portion of the new pier cost $462,000 – had Bay County done it alone it would have cost approximately $1 million. The bid, with contingencies, for the construction portion of the pier was $8 million, which would have cost $10 million had we not done the project in tandem with Panama City Beach. FEMA reimbursed the county some $3.3 million for the project, meaning the cost to the county is around $5.7 million.

The design portion of the concession building was $91,800 and the construction cost is $628,000. The last remaining item is a parking lot and stormwater system expansion, which is estimated to cost $1 million.

Construction began on the project in March 2009. The pier will be completed July 2010, with the concession/operations building to be completed later in the summer.

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