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 9/12/23, as observed by Terri Kondos and Susan Fingerman.
Invocation by Pastor Matt Ennis, Westside Baptist Church.
Pledge by Commander Bryan Parnell US Navy
Requests by Commissioners - Commissioner Kruse requested that items 10, 35 and 37 be removed from the consent agenda and Commissioner Van Ostenbridge requested item 54.
Port Authority Meeting - Executive Director of Port Authority (PA), Carlos Buqueros.
Coast Guard incident commander comments: Cleanup is 99% complete; the sea walls still to be cleaned and then full operations will resume.
The Coast Guard is investigating through examination of oil samples. Twenty-six oil samples were collected on the first day of the spill; it takes 3-5 days to process 3 samples. Potential sources are two foreign freight vessels, Florida Power and Light and TransMontaigne. The Coast Guard/Federal Government has spent $825K to clean up this oil spill to date.
Commissioner VanOstenbridge expressed concern with Port Authority communications to the County Commissioners (BoCC). Kruse defended the Port Authority and affirmed that everyone received the emails and the Coast Guard and Port Authority communicated well.
Commissioner Bearden criticized Kruse for not “leading from in front” and made a motion to nominate Commissioner Satcher to be Chair of Port Authority to replace Kruse. Kruse seconded. Passed 7-0. With a change of Chair, a third vice chair, Bearden, was approved.
Awards, Presentations, Proclamations
Hurricane Idalia Pre and Post-Storm Presentation - Charlie Bishop, Deputy Administrator.
The presentation was about county staff actions before, during, and after the storm and the lessons learned. Lifeguards who responded to a call off Palma Sola Causeway during the storm were introduced. There was a discussion of training for 311 volunteers and possibly training for school principals about operating as a shelter. Conducting an exercise of all of the processes and roles was suggested.
Lessons learned from Idalia: 1) Discussion of moving the 311 call center to Lakewood Ranch Library and out of the county government building which closes during storms. The call center took over 4,000 calls and operated over 50 continuous hours during Idalia. Commissioners felt 311 call center is underutilized and it could better augment call center communications.
2) Commissioners objected to the website being down during Idalia, once for 90 minutes. The IT Department Director blamed Civic Live, their website hosting vendor. The contract with Civic Live is being discontinued. A new contract will be in place before next year’s hurricane season.
Citizen Comments on Future Agenda Items
Kruse stated he had asked the Administrator to put the VMA contract on the agenda because their lease terminates this Thursday. It was clarified by County Attorney Clague that the County is required to give 90 days’ notice and the county can’t just let the agreement expire.
#54 Appointment of Bryan Parnell as Deputy County Administrator.
Mr. Parnell, a Navy retiree, is moving from Jacksonville.
Gibellina and Felts objected to the Board’s process and the need for clarity on roles and responsibilities of officials in various roles.
The appointment was approved unanimously.
Surplus land was being sold for $2.4 million. Kruse noted that the issue, from public comments by Gibellina regarding the funds from the sale going to the Affordable Housing trust fund, Livable Manatee had not been addressed. No motion was made regarding the use of funds from the sale. Passed 7-0.
#37 – Execution of Interlocal Agreement between the City of Bradenton and Manatee County, regarding Temporary Right of Way Maintenance for SR64 (from 75th Street West to 43r Street West and from 75th Street West to the Palma Sola Causeway)
The project will reconstruct the two-lane road along 27th Street East which will improve the flow of traffic, improve drainage issues in the area, and install new sidewalks and lighting for pedestrian safety. Public Works determined it is necessary to acquire land for this project and the settlement price of $700.00
The city of Bradenton looking to take over median beautification and maintenance from the Florida Department of Transportation. Passed 7-0.
#10 Adoption of Resolution R-23-145, prohibiting County funds to be used for Planned Parenthood or any abortion provider or to provide any abortion services.
Kruse stated the resolution is NOT what was discussed at the previous meeting which was to create a resolution prohibiting county funds for abortion services. This resolution mentions funding non-profits affiliated with such organizations.
Clague responded that staff added language that they thought clarified the intent of the board and that the language was consistent with their discussion, so he added in “any other services.” Clague asked what IS the intent of the resolution.
Kruse did not like that ANY provider affiliated with an abortion provider is in the resolution. The word affiliation makes it very flexible and keeps any non-profit from getting funding. He mentioned that Community hospitals have Planned Parenthood on their affiliations list. The wording is too broad and not what was intended.
Ballard also questioned the broadness of the resolution.
Clague said if the board wanted it revised it could be discussed at a meeting on Sept 26.
Public Comments –
Bearden –His job is to protect the rights of people, even unborn, at all costs.
Rahn – Stated that his mother single, young, became pregnant, and he’s glad she had him.
Ballard – Said that Manatee County Public Health provides free access to those eligible for FDA birth control, counseling, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
Kruse – asked why rushing through a poorly worded resolution that was not in accordance with the prior motion.
Motion – passed 6-1. Kruse voted no.
#49 – SMR Taylor Ranch - quasi-judicial hearing
Kruse questioned why credit was being given for impact fees for a 4-lane road that goes beyond the project. Lengthy back and forth on why the County is giving back impact fees for a 4-lane road.
Clark Grimes, attorney for the developer, talked about policy requirements and feels the impact fee charge is double charging.
The hearing was complete; a vote will occur in a subsequent meeting.
#56 – Appointment of four (4) representatives to Children's Services Advisory Board, one (1) NAACP representative, one (1) School Board representative, and two (2) Child Advocates.
All approved unanimously
#55 – Presentation on Historical Resources being supported and managed by Sports & Leisure Services Dept.
Molly White, Director of Sports and Leisure Services presented a slide presentation HISTORICAL RESOURCES 7-2023.PPTX.pdf (mymanatee.org), stating that they would be more efficient and have better outreach.
The following people objected for these reasons: no valid reason for the transfer; division gets awards for how well its done; the proposal was posted with no time to react by the community and parties of interest; and the Clerk of Courts and the historical community had not been consulted.
Passed 6 – 1 Kruse voting no.
There were approximately 830 volunteers in 2022 saving the county more than $18 million. This program will put volunteers under a single umbrella for standardized record-keeping and standard training. The County has acquired a volunteer system (Better Impact) and volunteers will apply online, take online orientation, and keep their time in this system.
Part of the program will be the ability to get Presidential Volunteer Service Awards. Also, an annual volunteer banquet is proposed to honor the volunteers. They plan to market volunteer opportunities more, especially to teens (required to do volunteer hours) and 55+.
Kruse clarified that volunteers were not going to be charged for the handbook and could take the training online and that individual departments would train for their specific areas under the new system. Ballard requested that inactive volunteers not be dropped from the system after one year, but remain longer. Passed 7-0.
#59. Discussion of Finalists for County Administrator
Manatee County conducted a nationwide search for a new County Administrator and the previous meeting narrowed the field to Andrew Butterfield and then added the current Deputy Administrator, Charlie Bishop as a finalist in the last regular meeting, over the objections of Kruse. Kruse stated that the direction of the board, supported by citizens, was for someone outside of the county with fresh ideas. The other Commissioners stated that they liked Butterfield and would consider him for an alternate position, but that they thought Bishop was a better fit. Moved to appoint Bishop County Administrator passed 6-1 Kruse voting no.
#60. Discussion on Alternative Veterans Housing Site
Bearden presented an alternative site for supportive housing for veterans, noting that he is proposing a property on Buckeye Rd and wanted it to take females and children of veterans. He has had it surveyed and showed a video showing the location developed with a possible park and homes. He did not have plans on how to handle support services.
The motion to move forward with the design passed unanimously.
Van Ostenbridge commented that a member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) was going to Kruse but he believes Kruse has become such an agitator and unreliable that he proposed Turner for the commission. Passed 7-0.
Ballard is working on a family shelter in District 2 and calling it Under One Roof and hope it will open by Christmas.
The Chair maintained decorum with most citizen comments, but particularly showed disrespect to commenter Gibellina, saying (that he rambled on his comments, and didn’t get his facts straight). Van Ostenbridge was also disrespectful to his fellow commissioner Kruse.
Commissioners need to operate and communicate from facts. There were multiple instances where incorrect information was used. Rahn described Planned Parenthood as a for-profit. Planned Parenthood is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. There were other, easily checked but factually incorrect statements made in relation to abortion and Planned Parenthood.
The Board is now proposing to set up their own supportive housing for veterans, rather than let experts like Tunnel-to-Towers run the program. This has been a pattern in many decisions, of growing the government in areas our County has no expertise in. (examples: running island markets or owning a ferry service).
The Volunteers in Action program is a welcome step forward in acknowledging and supporting county volunteers.
The BoCC has established a pattern of placing non-emergency items on the agenda at the last minute, often without proper study or consultation, prior to bringing the item for a vote. They do not give the public proper notice or get input from the affected parties and ignore the advice of experts. With no support from the public, they pass these changes, which shows disrespect and disregard for the citizens of this county and the taxpayers who provide them their paychecks.
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