LWV County Commission Meeting Notes: 9/13/2022

League of Women Voters Manatee County
The League of Women Voters of Manatee County Government Committee observes Manatee County Commission meetings for items of interest to the League and notes adherence, or lack of adherence, to good governance procedures and the Sunshine Law.  The following are the major points from the BOCC regular meeting on 9/13/2022, observed by Tina Shope and Coleen Friedman.

ITEMS OF INTEREST  Click Here for agenda and meeting video

  • Discussion on the proposal for Manatee County Transit options
    • Commissioner Kruse stated he has been speaking with a lobbyist about possible grant money available for MCAT. Federal funding is available for mass transit, but not for roads. County transit is underutilized. Some cities are switching to fare-free public transportation. It has been shown to increase ridership by 30-60% without a significant increase in capital costs.
    • The transit system operates at a loss. The costs run close to $20 million and the revenue is $1.8 million. The value of fare collection is minimal and transit fare boxes are going to require updating.
    • Benefits mentioned:
      • It will encourage increased ridership and reduce the number of cars on the road.
      • Many need transportation for medical, shopping, to commute to jobs.
      • It will provide the public with some relief from increased fuel prices.
      • It could decrease crowding on school buses.
    • Commissioner comments:
      • Whitmore - The Island Trolley (2003) went from a ridership of 60 a month to 1,000 a day when the fare was eliminated.  The Trolly stops every 20 minutes making it very convenient. She questioned where the funds would come from for the up-front costs.
      • Servia - Likes the Sarasota model which moved from using large buses to using vans. The ridership remained the same, but costs declined.
      • Van Ostenbridge questioned the timeline for receiving federal grant money. Kruse responded there are no hard numbers yet noting that Austin, TX ran a pilot for 18 months, and that grant money is available.
      • Baugh- Wants to add express routes such as Lakewood Ranch to the island.
      • Kruse proposed staff bring a presentation next month for an 18-month fare-free pilot program starting next fiscal year on Oct. 1. This allows two cycles of seasonal residents.
    • Citizen comments were all positive toward the proposal.
    • Passed 5 to 2. Satcher and Van Ostenbridge dissenting.
  • Coquina Beach Market Update
    • Convention and Visitor Bureau Director Elliott Falcione stated that county staff is currently working with the administration, parks maintenance, and public safety. The Coquina Beach Market was previously privately operated. The reason stated for taking over the market was to optimize resources. Funds raised by the market would be used to subsidize the water taxi.
    • Administration plans to run the market from 11/1/22 until 7/7/23, Tuesdays and Thursdays, afternoon to evening, which is a change in market dates.
    • Comments:
      • Whitmore - I don’t believe in competing with private enterprise. The Board has never voted to have the county open a business. I found out about all this via email.
      • Van Ostenbridge - With the new market, the taxpayer asset that was being monetized by someone else will now fund the water taxi.
      • Servia- The process was not honored. The board sets policy and it should have come to the board before the administrator made plans. This could end up costing more than we make.
    • A number of vendors and some citizens spoke against the county managing the Coquina Market. Many of the vendors will not be able to make the changed market dates and times.
  • Water Taxi Program Update
    • The County is close to finalizing a public/private partnership for a water taxi service between downtown Bradenton and the island (Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach, Coquina). 
    • It would operate starting February or March on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The boat will be a pontoon catamaran and riders will pay via an app (no cash). Piers will need to be enhanced to make them ADA compliant.
    • One way fare would be $8. or $10 hopper pass for the day. They are reviewing free transport for service workers. The county will need to subsidize the first few years. The presentation of the full proposal is targeted for the Sept 27 Board meeting.
    • Comments:
      • Whitmore – Questioned where the source of funds.
      • Hopes – They are working with an attorney to incorporate a county interest in the boats. They are experienced operators that understand the vessels needed for the waters in which they will be working.
      • Baugh – It would be good to use bed tax money. Sixty percent of tourists in Bradenton took day trips to the beach.
Citizen Comments
  • A citizen was denied a proclamation honoring the FBI and Department of Justice. Since it was within 48 hours of the raid at Mar a largo, Van Ostenbridge thought it was political and declined to sign it.
  • A citizen wondered where the trash will go in the future since Lena Rd, which would have allowed the extension of the landfill, is going to surplus and being sold.
  • A citizen protested county administration building renovations which were not permitted.
#28-1.9 East County Animal Shelter
Whitmore expressed concern about animal shelter capacity needs and Manatee remaining a no-kill county. No action was taken to move forward the construction of an East animal shelter. 

Item 65 Adoption of resolution to rename county’s Kinnan Park to Governor Ron DeSantis park.
  • Servia commented to the Board that neighborhood parks are not political and then reviewed her version of the history of the naming which began with a contest in her district where children and families were encouraged to participate.  The contest was "hijacked”.
  • Bellamy made a case for considering naming the park after a young veteran from the district PFC Cobb who died in Iraq in 2006 and one citizen suggested children should choose.
  • Passed 4-3.  Whitmore, Bellamy, and Servia voted against it.
Item 70 Amended Piney Point Resolution
County Attorney Clague presented an amended contract with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The 50-year agreement protects the county from unforeseen circumstances, as well as covers the $17 million cost for pre-treatment, the costs of monitoring, and other matters. 
The motion passed 7-0.

Item 71. Approval of FY2022/2023 Nonprofit Agency Funding Investment Recommendations for Adult and Other Human Service Programs 
Much of the concern expressed was concerning Turning Points. Director of Community and Veterans Services Lee Washington stated that his staff had recommended, based on assessments that Turning Points receive only half of the amount requested. 
  • Whitmore - She would discuss that further at the budget meeting. 
  • Servia - There is a question as to whether the increasing homeless population could be served with the budget recommendations.  Washington stated yes.
The motion passed 6-0 with Bellamy abstaining

Item 73. Approval of Promissory Note Documents for GAP Funding Assistance
Rowena Elliott, Affordable Housing Development Coordinator, Community and Veterans Services Department gave an overview of the 572-unit affordable housing projects and the interest-free loans that will help make them possible.
Motion passed 6-1 with Satcher voting against.

Item 74. Adoption of Resolution R-22-158, amending Livable Manatee Incentive Program for Affordable Homeownership and Rental Developments in the County 
Rowena Elliott reminded the Board that in April the work session resulted in a request for proposals to the Livable Manatee AMI and LURA definitions.  On June 16 a development meeting outcome included motions that now need to be codified to encourage at least 25% affordable units within rental, mixed-income developments; establish an efficient process for customer service and ease of program administration; protect the community's investment in affordable housing, and ensure compliance with SHIP and LHAP guidelines applicable for affordable housing.
 Motion passed 6-1. Satcher voting against it.

Item  75. Termination of the $4,500,000 Kingfish Boat Ramp RESTORE grant
The Kingfish Boat Ramp is located in Holmes Beach.  Boat ramp renovation would have been funded with the BP Oil settlement funds.  Charles Bishop, Deputy County Administrator does not believe that Holmes Beach will issue a permit for renovations because they don’t want the additional parking spaces nor do they want exotic trees removed. 

The staff feels that they will run out of time to get started before the DEP permit expires. After further discussion, the consensus moved toward redirecting the grant funds toward another project and just doing maintenance on Kingfish Boat Ramp.
The motion passed 7-0.

Item 76 Transportation Projects Website
A new ESRI tool on the public works website which will allow the public to have full transparency on all aspects of CIP projects.  Click Here.


Link to Good Governance Guidelines 

  • The relationship with Holmes Beach needs to be healed for the sake of the citizens who reside there.  Actions of the BoCC, on occasion, could be questioned as to whether they are done to retaliate because of the dispute over parking.
  • Approval of proclamations has been politicized and approval should move to a more neutral body for approval.  One proclamation was denied, possibly appropriately, because it was considered political due to the timing and likely connection with investigations of Trump’s holding of documents.  However, the BoCC did a highly politicized proclamation praising the overturning of Roe vs Wade and specifically thanking a host of Republican leaders.
  • The Chair needs to watch the clock for time allocated to items.  The agenda was full today but there was an hour spent on the naming of the DeSantis park.  A great deal of time to the Big 6 road projects website causing the meeting to end abruptly without considering the commissioner agenda, including the cut in funding of Turning Points, due to the 6PM budget meeting.
  • An item regarding sidewalks was a good example of participatory government at work.  This item was brought forward by Whitmore at previous meeting and public works did follow up with the community.  Their voices were heard and a project was adjusted based on the input.
To email the commissioners Click Here