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New Pier in Port A Could Solve Bob Hall Pier Problem

When Nueces County allowed Mikal May’s Bar and Grill to expand onto a newly built portion of Bob Hall Pier in 2011, it violated terms of the $750,000 federal grant that paid for the extended observation deck. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service want its money back with interest.

A deal could be underway to solve a $750,000 problem between the federal government and Nueces County if a complete proposal is submitted by August 14 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That agency has been racking up interest on grant money used to make improvements to Bob Hall Pier in 2011. Because Mikel May’s Bar and Grill, a private business, expanded onto the Gulf Beach Observation Deck built with that money, the feds say the county is out of compliance with terms of the grant.

At a recent commissioners meeting, County Judge Barbara Canales said she met with U.S. Fish and Wildlife representatives to discuss building a similar observation deck with educational resources at I.B. Magee Park in Port Aransas.

“We would set aside the other agreement that we have from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and we would be allowed — this is our proposal — to use another project to be considered in full compliance,” Canales said. 'We already own design and structural engineering plans, and they would accept — potentially — as part of our proposal this design and structural engineering plans as an in-kind piece of this pie.'

The new observation deck would be paid for out of private funds from a local industry or foundation, Canales said, adding that several companies doing business in the port have expressed interest.

A letter from the federal agency to Canales asked Nueces County to submit a proposal to “remove the Federal nexus from the Bob Hall Pier observation pavilion by completing construction of a comparable facility at an alternative location.”

Written by Paul Rauch, assistant director of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the letter went on to specify that the county has until August 14 to submit the proposal, which must include a description of the facility, location, budget, design plans, and “a description of how the financial value of the proposed facility offsets the financial value of the existing observation pavilion at Bob Hall Pier.”

Interest on the $746,325.57 will continue to accrue until the project is complete.

The Port Aransas proposal already has design plans because it is a project that Pct. 4 Commissioner Brent Chesney has hoped to complete for some time. He pointed to the boost such a project would give to Port Aransas, still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfill there in August 2017. He also noted that Mikal May’s has proven to be an asset to the county, bringing in about $125,000 a year in sales-tax receipts.

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