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Commissioners Stall Plans to Lease John H. Marble Park Building

BRADENTON -- A quiet competition for the right to lease a so-called Butler sheet-metal building in John H. Marble Park turned a bit awry Tuesday for Bible Baptist Church, Manasota ARC, and the Henry Lawrence Foundation, all of which seemed ready to share the space.
But the Manatee County Board of Commissioners rejected an effort by Commissioner At Large Joe McClash to avoid the staff time and any costs associated with a Request for Proposals and instead let the Bible Baptist Church work with other groups and county administrator Ed Hunzeker for a month before coming back to the commission with a possible proposal to lease it. Commissioner Michael Gallen seconded his motion.
Manasota ARC made a heartfelt appeal for the right to lease the building, Pastor John Campbell said he could envision sharing it with the non-profit. A 38 percent cut in funding for the poor with mental disabilities is under consideration in the legislature, and apparently has the support of Gov. Rick Scott. It would devastate the ARC programs for the mentally disabled and drug-addicted, a spokesperson said.
Pastor John Campbell of Bible Baptist Church said he envisioned joining with other non-profit groups like Manasota ARC to run the building for their mutual benefit.
Other county officials were anxious to make sure a swimming pool on the site was up and running for kids by June. Under the adopted motion, it may be. Commissioner Donna Hayes said she was bothered to learn the relatively good condition of the building about to be razed.
"I was ready to drive by there [one day] and see it torn down," she said.
Board chair Carol Whitmore said the proposal for the two groups to share the building was unrealistic, since under state law the mentally disabled clients of Manasota ARC need at least 14,000 square feet of space separate from other programs, she said.
An earlier plan had called for razing what seemed like a perfectly useful building with a large basketball court, bathrooms and office space, after a former potential lessee, the YMCA, said it needed $1.3 million in renovations to be usable.
McClash said that after a personal walk-through, he estimated the need for renovations at about $15,000 for electrical and air-conditioning issues.
McClash got support from county engineers who said plumbing, asbestos, mold and allergy, and flooding issues had been corrected or resolved. County administrator Ed Hunzeker pointed out, however, that the parties could still make a joint proposal under an RFP.
The condition of the large building, a nearby outbuilding for storage and a community swimming pool apparently passed muster, but several commissioners were reluctant to approve McClash's motion to move the Bible Baptist proposal along without considering all possible users.
Whitmore, John Chappie, and Donna Hayes each voiced objections to awarding the building without a bid process, and McClash found himself on the losing end of a 5-1 vote on his motion. Commissioner Larry Bustle was in Las Vegas for a military reunion.
The original consent agenda motion, pulled out of the consent agenda for consideration by McClash, passed unanimously. (FULL AGENDA)


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