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LWV County Commission Notes: 8/8/2023


The League of Women Voters of Manatee County Government Committee observes Manatee County Commission meetings for items of interest to citizens and 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 board’s regular meeting on 8/8/2023 observed by Ginger McCallum and Tina Shope.

Link to Agenda and Meeting Video


Retirement award to Jeff Wilson, Sr. Building Trades Worker, after 30 years of service.

Citizen Comments on Future Agenda Items

  • 7 citizens who were among the volunteers let go from the animal shelter, spoke and expressed their disappointment with the lack of involvement by the County Commissioners (BoCC) for not requesting an investigation into their firing and what they characterized as increasingly neglectful conditions at the shelter.
  • One citizen thanked the commissioners for their support of the acquisition of public lands for preservation.
  • Reverend Fred Hammond of the Manatee Unitarian Universal Church asked commissioners to reconsider excluding funding for ALSO Youth’s much-needed counseling services for LGBTQ+ youth, saying he feels it targets people for who they are.

Regular Agenda Items

Item #29 -Adoption of Resolution R-23-127, regarding the Infrastructure Sales Tax to add a project in the Transportation category; and Adoption of Budget Amendment Resolution B-23-140

Commissioner Kruse asked if the change in the type of funding cut out anything important. Chad Butzow, Public Works Director, clarified that they are making the change in order to get the sidewalks and the first roundabout started, which are ready to go, rather than waiting for the entire project funding to be available. The rest of the existing project is committed and will be addressed/funded in the future. Approved 7-0.

Item #30 – False Alarm Ordinance

Background: After operating a False Alarm Ordinance for almost 20 years, Manatee County Sheriff Office has concluded that revisions to the False Alarm Ordinance were warranted to decrease the burden on alarm users while simultaneously ensuring that law enforcement resources are employed in the most efficient manner. After direction from the BoCC in February 2023, the County Attorney’s Office has assisted in reformatting the Ordinance for consideration today.

Key points include a change from 2 false alarms per resident lifetime to 2 false alarms per year and a procedure for delinquent accounts. Approved 7-0. 

*Item #31 - Adoption of Resolution R-23-088, to convey county-owned property located at 4410 66th Street West, Bradenton, 34210, for Affordable Veterans Housing Development to Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, Inc., a New York not-for-profit corporation; and Execution of Land Use Restriction Agreement and Conveyance Deed - District 4

This item is a follow-up from April 25, 2023 (*see below) when the BoCC gave direction to move forward with this project. The request today conveys the property to Tunnels to Towers (T2T). Actions requested included:

  • Adoption of Resolution R-23-088, for the conveyance of county-owned property to Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, Inc., a New York not-for-profit corporation for the development of Affordable Veterans Housing;
  • Authorization for the Chairman to execute a Land Use Restriction Agreement and Conveyance Deed from Manatee County to Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, Inc.; and
  • Authorization for the County Administrator to waive impact fees for the 12 moderate-income level units that are not eligible for the Impact Fee Credits through the Livable Manatee Incentive Program in the estimated amount of $106,800.

After a short presentation by a T2T spokesperson Gavin Naples, questions by Commissioner Beardon were answered by T2T Mr. Naples and T2T legal representative Mr. Barneby:

  • The T2T program is open only to homeless and at-risk Vets, not to non-Vets, and with Manatee County’s Veterans getting preference. T2T attempts to place veterans where they currently live, not in different states.
  • Beardon expressed a desire for public feedback before contracting with USVets for managing the services for the community because he had concerns about their ability to handle the services, after visiting several sites.

Commissioner Van Ostenbridge expressed concerns:

  • Van Ostenbridge understood that originally it was transitional housing but now it is permanent supportive housing.
  • Regarding the maximum number of possible units on the site, Mr. Barnaby responded that, there were 588 maximum units noted in the agreement, which county staff calculated based on what could potentially be built on a property of this size and zoning, T2T has no intention of building more than the agreed 120 units. Prior B although prior discussion was about 150 units.
  • As to a concern about default on the housing agreement, Attorney D’Agostino clarified that in the draft agreement T2T would buy back the land; that the land would not automatically go back to the County. Mr. Barnaby added that the default agreement was to observe the millions T2T would have sunk into the property, and they do not plan to default on the project.
  • Van Ostenbridge also expressed an interest in having neighborhood meetings before the land was conveyed to T2T.

Kruse said that commissioners were bringing up items for future consideration after the project was built out. The issue today is to convey the property to T2T so they can start the process. He also noted that the BoCC did not require other developers to hold neighborhood meetings until after ownership conveyance and the developer has created a site plan. He encouraged the BoCC to move this forward in order to meet the commitment they’ve previously made to the county’s homeless and at-risk veterans.

A great deal of discussion followed again bringing up issues of whether USVets would be the service provider, whether there should be community meetings, and the number of units approved for the property being 588 rather than 120 previously discussed by BoCC and T2T. Rahn and Kruse urged the Commissioners to move forward today, and Turner expressed an interest in ironing out the needed contract changes and voting today.

County Attorney Clague stated he was more comfortable with the changes to the maximum units being adjusted back to 150 units from the staff-initiated 588 offline and could get that done within 2 weeks. Satcher said he would support the motion today if it were amended to limit units to 150 and add neighborhood meetings within 4 weeks.

Kruse amended his motion, to add a limit of 150 units versus 588 units. Rahn seconded. Commissioner discussion continued on the amended motion.

Public Comment:  Gary Foreman stated he lived nearby and the property under discussion is in a high drug dealing area and it is a long bus ride to the VA clinic, so the location is not ideal. He also complained that the details of the contract were posted after hours on August 7, so he and the public didn’t have adequate time to review them.

The motion on the floor was reviewed by the attorney but time was needed to identify where the agreements needed to be amended to limit units to 150. Kruse asked for a short recess; Van Ostenbridge recessed for lunch.

Upon return from lunch, VanOstenbridge asked Attorney Clague to read the revised motion. Clague asked Mr. Barneby to review the changes. Kruse moved to approve the amended item. There was no second. Rahn, who had originally seconded the amended motion, was absent. Satcher and Beardon were also absent.

Ballard moved to continue this item for up to 6 weeks in order to iron out the details discussed and VanOstenbridge seconded. Passed 3-1 (Kruse against, Satcher, Beardon and Rahn absent).

 *FROM 4/25/2023 LWVMC NOTES:

Item #42 – Discussion of Veteran Transitional Housing 

In the Spring of 2022, two non-profits, Tunnels 2 Towers and US Vets, approached Manatee County government regarding their desire to bring supportive services and housing for Veterans to Manatee County. There is no cost to the county for direct building costs nor for ongoing operating expenses for this project. The land site is currently valued at $6.1 million and the title to the property would be conveyed to the project’s two non-profit agencies at no cost. Kruse pointed out that the utility department building currently on the land has to be vacated because it’s no longer safe or usable. 

Although the title in the agenda is “Transitional” housing, the actual proposed project is for 122 permanent rather than transitional housing units. The goal is for “permanent supportive housing” as the success rate of transitional housing was low. Wrap-around services would include mental health and wellness, workforce development, and homelessness prevention.

Van Ostenbridge, Bearden, and Baugh made statements expressing concern that this project might make Manatee County a magnet for attracting additional homeless veterans.

Kruse staunchly defended this specific project and the specific proposed location.

After a lengthy commissioner discussion, Satcher stated that this project is clearly the most effective, least expensive, and courageous option to actually address veteran homelessness in Manatee County.

The motion to accept the staff recommendation to move forward with this project passed 7-0.

Item # 32. Planning Commission Advisory Board Appointment - Two Seats 

Due to Turner’s appointment as County Commissioner, an immediate opening was created on the Planning Commission. From the list of citizens who applied, Turner nominated Richard Bedford, an architect and real estate/land use consultant, for the seat he previously filled.

Another vacancy occurs in October, when a sitting appointee’s term expires. Also from the list of applicants, Satcher nominated Lorraine Prosser, a certified building contractor and active on a variety of civic committees. Satcher moved to close nominations immediately.

Citizen Comments:

Carol Felts was disappointed in the number of applicants noting that there was not much advertising for the positions and recommending better communications and that positions be kept open for a reasonable period.

Kruse then commented that the whole process was ridiculous. He wanted to nominate Glen Gibelina, but was unable to because of the quick closure of nominations. He noted that the original press release showed the opening until 8/24 and that they had only received the application 24 hours previous to the vote.

Kruse voted no to close nominations. Both appointments passed 7-0.

Item # 34. Consideration of Environmental Lands Management and Acquisition Committee (ELMAC) Recommendations and Authorization to Proceed to Due Diligence for Two Recommended Candidate Acquisitions    

Two properties were presented to request due diligence to potentially acquire as preserved natural areas:

  1. Crooked River Ranch - 68 acres south of Old Tampa Road
  2. Gamble Creek Preserve - 238 acres adjacent to Twin Rivers Preserve at Gamble Creek

Van Ostenbridge and Turner questioned the appraised value stating that since developers have to provide green space, they do not want to pay premium costs because of proximity to water, etc.

Citizen Comments:

Elizabeth Hunter Skidmore, one owner of the Crooked River Ranch land, and Christine Johnson, president of Conservation Foundation, enthusiastically recommended moving forward with due diligence.

Carol Felts, a member of the ELMAC board, stated there were numerous meetings to review properties. Although she originally worried about the environmental tax, now she would like to see 500 to 1000-acre properties acquired by the county.

Passed 7-0.

After the vote, VanOstenbridge and Kruse expressed an interest in changing the process to allow ELMAC to begin the due diligence process without having to come to the board to begin the process. Hunsicker said staff will draft something along those lines to bring it back to the Board to approve.

Commissioner Agenda Items


Based on her interest in helping with the opioid crisis and homelessness, Ballard has looked at Helping Up Mission in Baltimore MD. Established in 1885 to assist in homelessness and, in working to get at the root causes of homelessness, developed a focus on helping with addiction.  Helping Up Mission is interested in opening a satellite site and Ballard would like to go to Baltimore to look at their operations. She would like long-term solutions and opioid litigation funds are available. Approved 7-0.

At the Aug 3 Special Meeting, Commissioners approved the County pursuing a BookMobile program with funding coming from Impact Fees ($500,000 noted in the Generational Project information from the Aug 3 agenda materials). Tammy Parrott, Library Systems Manager, made a short presentation and said that staff had been investigating this for over a year. Ballard motioned to approve funding to move forward with the acquisition of a bookmobile vehicle, one which does not require a Commercial Driver’s License for the driver. Approved 7-0.


Tallevast Sewer Improvements. He stated that this community is continually under-served and there is a problem with contamination.  They are currently on septic systems and want funding, not to exceed $500,000, to conduct surveys and soil tests, to move toward a sewer. Passed 7-0.


Premiere Sports Campus Update. Commissioner Turner noted that the design is 30% complete and staff has asked for approval to move to 60%. The overall budget is $39 million but costs are currently projected to be $42 million. The staff is working on trimming to keep the project in line with the budget. 

There are three pools included: Competition, training, and therapy. There are tennis courts planned but they may need to be phased in to stay within the budget. Van Ostenbridge noted there are numerous tennis courts on School District properties. He wants to investigate inter-local agreements to allow citizens to use tennis courts on school properties. 

Motion to approve to move to 60% design passed 7-0.

County Attorney Items - Item #39 – Discussion of applicants for County Administrator

The County engaged Colin Baenziger & Associates (Contractor) to conduct a national search to hire a new county administrator. The Contractor has provided a recommended list of applicants (9). The BoCC worked with the County Attorney Clague to come up with 5 finalists. Each commissioner provided a list of their top five candidates and those that received the most votes are:

  • Andrew Butterfield
  • James Doar
  • W. Lee Smith
  • Don Rosenthal
  • Dale “Doc” Dougherty

Ballard made a motion to have the consultant begin the process to bring the 5 candidates to Manatee County for one-on-one interviews and a community forum next week. Passed 7-0.


Link to Good Governance Guidelines

Although posted well in advance, the agenda was updated 2 times, both late in the day or after hours and less than a week before the meeting (8/4 and 8/7), and both after the deadline for public comment, which was moved up from the usual Friday to Thursday. Several of the updated items contained important information that the public and other stakeholders should have had well in advance. (Planning Commission Candidates, County Administrator Candidates, T2T details)

Focusing on issues not at hand for Item 31 (future service provider, transitional versus permanent housing) were not relevant to the vote, had previously been discussed/decided, and appear to be delaying tactics to a project previously praised.

Dates for Planning Commissioner applications were abbreviated with little notice, from Aug 25 to Aug 4. Moves to close nominations happened so swiftly that they eliminated other commissioner’s nominations and the important discussion that should occur about the candidates. This BoCC often ignores processes for their own expediency/interests. i.e., Planning Commission appointments, meeting agendas, acting County Administrator appointments, items added late to the agenda, etc.

The Agenda link to the list of candidates for County Administrator originally went to an outside website, Community Patriots Manatee, with a long list of candidates and their applications, dated July 20, 2023. This link was eventually corrected, but the question remains, why was a partisan organization’s list linked to the BoCC agenda and how did this organization obtain an early list of candidates and resumes?

We commend Kruse for calling other commissioners out on not following processes and delaying items needed by the community and delaying previous commitments.


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  • barbaraelliott

    Thank you Manatee LWV for including the good governance section each week. Citizens this is a template to write criminal ethical, Florida Bar and civil complaints. The LWV and you can file these complaints. I've filed many some with success some with disastrous results. You don't know until you try, succeed or fail until you can learn to do it right. I am only a citizen like you.

    It is inexcusable with all the lawyers who practice in this area and suck us dry for money, that not one steps up to to give citizens some pro bono help.

    Sunday, August 13, 2023 Report this

  • Dianna

    Thank you LWV for your meeting notes- The community appreciates the details that were added concerning T2T and the follow up. I was able to alert the community by sending out your meeting notes with accurate information when we started hearing from others in the community about Commissioner Van Ostenbridge’s town hall on a “homeless shelter” being built on that exact property. The T2T project is certainly not a homeless shelter. The T2T project is Veterans housing. There was an overwhelming public response supporting this T2T project at the town hall 8/19/23. There were many upset people attending however, because they were misled by official statements from our commissioner and county website and thought this would be the site of an actual shelter. Citizen’s attending yesterday have asked T2T to contact LWV to pass along correct information to the public when it comes up for a vote again as we used your information to set the record straight. It is embarrassing to the community when 6 of our commissioners refuse to stand up for Veterans, 3 by not returning from lunch to vote and 3 who will not second the motion followed by misleading the public to reduce support for a project by putting out a false narrative on a homeless shelter. Clearly this property is wanted for another purpose.

    Sunday, August 20, 2023 Report this