BRADENTON -- Manatee County Commissioners moved to purchase property to build a new transit facility. But "not so fast," says the Tallevast community, "What about us?" Commissioners say there's nothing to worry about, but the residents say history tells a different story.
The Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) facility is getting old and will soon outgrow its ability to provide sufficient service, says the commission, so a new location and facility is in the forecast. The site is located at the northwest corner of Tallevast Road and U.S. 301.
The 37.71 acre parcel is being purchased for $4,520,000, from its owner, The Forum LLC, and when the county finalizes the sale, it will qualify for a $15,948,237 grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to build the facility. For the county to qualify for FTA funds, the acquisition had to follow FTA guidelines and approval of the site.
The Tallevast community group FOCUS says it is not going to happen like that. FOCUS Vice-President, Wanda Washington, one of two who spoke for the group, says, "We should accept the pollution? We came to you for protection… nobody came to us. We want respect." Washington added, "Do not put the depot in our community."
FOCUS President Laura Ward pointed to the cart full of documents staff paraded as due diligence for what it took to secure the deal, and said, "If there was nothing wrong with the property, you wouldn't need that agreement with Lockheed."
In 1996, Lockheed Martin acquired a weapon solvent plant in Tallevast from The American Beryllium Company that was built in 1962, and shut it down. In 2004, dozens of wells and hundreds of acres of ground were found to have high levels of a variety of solvent residues. Residents of Tallevast have experienced high numbers of cancer and lung disease and feel the county has ignored their predicament.
Deputy County Administrator Dan Schlandt says "there is nothing to worry about," and Public Works Department Director, Ron Schulhofer, agrees with him. Schulhofer says, "It is zoned 'light Industry' and it wouldn't be legal to allow those conditions." Residents of Tallevast say the funding was cut for contaminate testing, so how would they know?
"There are still a few hoops to get through before all is final," says Washington.
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