BRADENTON -- Manatee County's Public Works Director, Ron Schulhofer, addressed the commission on staff's continuing pursuit to find a new direction for the future bus stops and shelters. On Novembe 30, 2010 the BOCC held its first workshop. Then the county administrator stated that a Request for Proposal (RFP) would go out when the board made a policy decision to have vendors provide the bus shelters and/or bus benches.
Two such vendors showed up to hear Manatee County's Staff proposal. Metropolitan Systems (aka Metro Bench) a current contract holder with Manatee County, and now providing service with an extended contract that expires January 1, 2012, was represented by, Metropolitan Systems (MT) manager, Roy Jurs. He said, MT was aware of some of the complaints and willing to work with the county in any way possible. Jurs said that currently, there are a 168 benches in the county. He said that if the county wanted 1,004 benches for all 1,004 stops, they would deliver them. He added that some of the complaints -- particularly moved and tilted benches -- were due to maintenance workers and others, but that they are out there weekly correcting them.
The second company bidding for the job was Steve Depot from Bizarre Management. His 25 years of experience in the billboard and bus stop advertising business, he said, gives him a clear picture of just what the county needed; bus benches. He believes competition with assorted suppliers would keep the quality of the service up.
Both had a pitch, but commissioners weren't ready to buy. Commissioners didn't want just any bench, they were looking for a brand, a style of benches and for shelters too. They didn't want to opt for an anything goes approach, they wanted something that reflected the quality of life in Manatee County. They felt that they needed to get with the incorporated parts of Manatee, find a connecting theme and deal with the endeavor respectfully. Commissioner Larry Bustle said, "This reflects much about who we are, our town." That seemed to be the theme throughout the workshop. Commissioner Joe McClash said, "There is no need to rush this, a lot is riding on this decision."
Commissioners decided another workshop would be necessary for the bus bench issue, and to go forward with Ron Schulhofer's and staff's suggestion, to let the public in on the decision making process.
Next, they moved on to the shelters. One thing was clear, no one wanted any more of the blue shelters, like the ones the county already has. The board remained undecided over what type of advertising would be smart for the structures, but were leaning toward non-profits for the adds and all wanted the shelters to have open-sides for safety purposes. Commissioners asked their legal team to hash over just what parameters were available, so a schedule could be set, so they could go forward from there. They told staff that at the next meeting they would make a decision and agreed that the public should also weigh in on the shelters, perhaps offering some ideas.
The next issue was sign ordinances. The conversation started with some much needed revisions. What is the difference between flags, banners and portable signs? Bob Schmitt, AICP Division Manager, said the definitions aren't as clear as they used to be. The new wind-waver signs or flags, are hard to classify. Commissioner McClash said, "What we are trying to do is get rid of the sign pollution."
Staff has reduced some restrictions. No longer will a LED sign require 150-ft of road property, just 50. But commissioners felt too much of the issue remains foggy regarding what is what. Consequently, they are leaving it up to code enforcement. The board asked for them to only respond when a complaint is made and to try and get the owners of the properties, strip malls and the like, to police themselves, by asking them to restrict their renters to stay within the county's ordinances.