BRADENTON – The plight of the North River Little League has been well documented. After giving up their fields for the site of the new Palmetto Elementary, the struggling program was left to die on the vine without the fields they were promised. In a press conference yesterday at McKechnie Field, Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle, who was Mayor of Palmetto when the original deal was brokered, went on the record to endorse a new plan that would finally see the Little Leaguers get their long-promised facility.
Originally proposed at a cost of around $900,000, the most recent plans range from $3.3 million to $3.45 million, mostly because the currently preferred site was found to be contaminated from pesticide chemicals left over from its time as a fruit grove. Option 1, which Commissioner Bustle endorsed, would see three regulation fields with parking, restrooms, concessions and lighting accompanying the topsoil mitigation. The cost is projected at $3.3 million and the time frame is estimated at 22 months, which would mean that the facility would be ready for the fall of 2014.
The second plan would see Bennett Park get two brand new softball fields, while the two softball fields at Blackstone now, would be converted into two regulation Little League fields at a cost of around $3.45 million and a 25-month build out time. Bustle said he felt that the longer time, higher cost and less Little League fields made it easy for him to prefer option 1.
The plans won't be presented to the county commission until the September 11 meeting and some of the commissioners hadn't even been briefed on the proposals when the press conference was called. Bustle, who is up for reelection in November, would obviously like to see some sort of closure on the issue which has dogged the first-term commissioner since the land-swap first went sideways.
Current Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover-Bryant, who has crusaded for adequate ball fields for the Little Leaguers since the issue first arose, expressed some disappointment that it would be a 22-month wait, but said she would be happy were they finally to get the fields they'd been promised and said that making sure the topsoil mitigation was correctly performed and the contaminants removed needed to be the highest priority. For full coverage of the ongoing saga, see the articles below. The Marauders will host a special Palmetto night at McKechie on Saturday to benefit the league.
|Renderings of proposed option 1 for the North River American Little League Complex in Palmetto|
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