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LWV Manatee County Commission Notes: 1/9/24


BRADENTON — 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 1/9/24, observed by Maureen Dardinski.

Link to Agenda and Meeting Video

Invocation led by Pastor Randy Wilkins, Gulf Coast Church


  • Presentation of the Heroism Award to David Saldivar. This award is presented to Manatee County Employees who have gone above and beyond their line of duty. Jody Fiske, Director of Public Safety spoke of David’s many accomplishments and a supervisor from Code Enforcement related how David saved the life of a homeless woman by recognizing she was in medical distress and performing CPR for over 4 minutes until Emergency Services arrived.
  • Retirement Award to Wendy "Che" Barnett, Redevelopment Coordinator, Development Services Department, honoring her 9+ years of service with Manatee County Government.
  • Invitation from the Fair Manager and Members of the Board of Directors to attend the 2024 Manatee County Fair - January 11-21, 2024
  • Veteran Connections Discussion - Lee dePalo, Director of Community and Veterans Services, Renee Medina, Manager of Veterans Services, and Sarah Brown, Deputy Director of Community Resources, gave presentations on their programs to support veterans. The comprehensive programs covered assistance with claims, providing connections to many federal, state, and agency programs that can assist with educational benefits, employment, food insecurity, homelessness, and health care, and an enhanced and interactive website with ways to connect Veterans with resources and increase outreach across the Veteran community to identify needs.
  • Proclamation Designating January 21-27, 2024, as "National Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists' Week" in Manatee County.

Selected Citizen Comments- Future Agenda Items

  • Glen Gibelina asked why the BoCC did not use the latest 172-page study regarding Impact Fees. Regarding Wetlands, he asked, did the BoCC use best practices when making their decision about removing significant wetlands protections? He noted Orange County increased its wetland buffers by 100 feet (Manatee County's Comprehensive Plan requirements for buffers went from 40 and 50 feet to 15 feet with a 25-foot average). He stated that the presentation on Veterans was great, but he did not hear anything about housing.
  • Ken Piper requested a work session to discuss the Gabion walls planned for Aqua by the Bay. Gabion walls are rock-filled cages that are proposed to be next to wetland areas in Aqua by the Bay. Ken showed slides from a study by Monaco Ecology Group.
  • Joe McClash showed an application to SW Florida Water Management District (SWFMWD) by a Carlos Beruff company requesting no buffers and the Gabion walls by the mangrove wetlands. He asked for a Work Session with experts and stakeholders before deciding. He noted that the BoCC could rescind its action and reinstate the wetland protections.

Commissioner Responses/Comments on Citizen Comments – Future Agenda Items:

Kruse reminded commissioners that he did not vote for the change to reduce the wetland buffers to the state minimums. He said, “We were told there would be a minimum buffer; this is proof right here—the very first application proposing to use that vote does not propose any buffer, zero.” He said, let’s discuss this more before making a mistake.

Selected Citizen Comments – Consent Agenda

Glen Gibelina commented on Item 51, Speed Bumps on Riverview Boulevard, saying residents were not asked about this, and the necessary signatures were not gathered. Regarding Item 57, The Paddocks Manatee, he said the project should contain 10% Affordable Housing, and by his count, the number of affordable housing units does not add up to 10%.

Item 16 (Execution of Agreement No. 23-R081706CD for Investment Grade Energy Performance Audit for Guaranteed Energy, Water, and Wastewater Performance Savings Contract for Lena Road Landfill Methane Gas)

  • Several employees of Ameresco, a company not selected for the project, spoke about Item 16, arguing that Ameresco was more qualified and experienced in building the types of projects needed for the Lena Road Landfill. One commenter said Johnson Controls, which may receive this contract, said untrue things about Ameresco.
  • Mark Goff, Johnson Controls, introduced himself and said he would oversee the project.
  • Evan Pilachowski, Deputy County Administrator, responding to the Johnson Controls-related comments, said the work is for an energy audit, not construction of the project.

Consent Agenda Passed 7-0

After a recess, the Chair stated that there would be a discussion of Item #44, which he stated Van Ostenbridge had asked to be pulled from the consent agenda - Execution of Interlocal Agreement regarding The Community Policing Initiative. This agreement would raise the pay for off-duty officers from $40 to $60 per hour. After a brief discussion, Van Ostenbridge made a motion to continue the discussion on this item after input from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. Passed 7-0.

Item #63 - Appointment of Patrick Shea as Director of Utilities

Evan Pilachowski, Deputy County Administrator, recognized Jim Ryberg for his service as Interim Director of Utilities with an award. Patrick O’Shea was presented to the BoCC for confirmation as Director of Utilities.

Approved, 7-0

Item #64 Approval of an Amendment to the 2024 State Legislative Priorities and the County's 2024 Metropolitan Planning Organization Project Priorities – (Details in link)

Actions Requested:

1. Approval of an amendment to Manatee County's 2024 State Legislative Priorities to add 51st Street West from El Conquistador Parkway to 53rd Avenue West and to add S.R. 64 from east of Lorraine Road to Verna Bethany Road; and 2. Authorization for the Chairman to execute the Manatee County's 2024 Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Project Priorities and for staff to transmit said priorities.

Approved 7-0

Item #65 - Adoption of Resolution R-24-018, establishing the County’s Roadway Lighting Policy; and Update on the ‘Light Up Manatee’ Program

Presentation of an update to the “Light Up Manatee” Project by Aaron Burkett, Public Works. Approval Requested of Roadway Lighting Policy. Approved with 7-0

Commissioner Agenda Items


Item #66 - Discussion of County support of Manatee County Search & Rescue

The Manatee County Search & Rescue is an all-volunteer nonprofit supporting critical emergency needs within the county at no cost to the taxpayers. They are presently being displaced from one facility and need a permanent home base for equipment and volunteers. Deputy Administrator DePol said staff is working on this and will return to the Board with Search and Rescue needs.

Item #67- Expansion of Citizen Advisory Boards

Kruse mentioned he had been asked at his Town Halls to add Advisory Boards to deal with Animal Rescue, Rural Communities, Waterways, and Disabled Persons. Manatee County has 18 Boards and Sarasota has 33. He asked, why not use our intelligent citizens to research best practices and find solutions to problems then give the County free advice?

Other Commissioners noted that staff time is needed to assist citizen boards, and maybe some items could be given to existing Boards to work on. Ballard mentioned there were empty positions on existing Boards. County Administrator Bishop said staff are doing an audit of existing Boards now and will bring it to the BoCC when complete.

Public Comment on Item #67

  • Pat Simmons said a Disabled Citizen Board is important to her and would be to other community members.
  • Shannon Keever commented that people don’t volunteer for the Advisory Boards because they don’t feel heard by the Commissioners. She also stated that she has been told that if you are a Democrat you need not apply. She went on to say that the BoCC should consider people who think differently than you do
  • Keith Green said to do the audit first, don’t create new government.

Item #68- Manatee County Citizens Academy

Manatee County’s Academy is being reinstated. It will be an 8-week hybrid educational program, once a week for 1-1/2 hours, starting August 7, 2024.


Item #69- American Library Association (ALA) ties with County Libraries

Satcher suggested that Manatee County separate its connection with the ALA and contended the current president is a Marxist and does not align with Manatee County taxpayers or this board. He read statements made by the current ALA president and said County could review membership if the ALA made a “U-Turn” with its policies, and he did not like the ALA pushing Woke ideology under the guise of something else.

Tammy Parrot, Library Services Manager, answered questions about the benefits of the membership and its costs. She stated that the ALA provides printing discounts, professional publications, professional discounts, and specialized professional development.

Ballard noted that ALA does not have a lot of influence on Manatee County Library’s day-to-day operations, and she noted they are still members of the Florida Library Association. She has concerns about the leadership but noted the reaction to ALA’s current president’s comments was making a “mountain out of a molehill.”

Kruse noted that the membership is inexpensive and that we are losing benefits that will cost us more to replace than staying a member. Is this a knee-jerk reaction to withdraw because of one person’s comments?

Van Ostenbridge said that library staff have made decisions that needed to be corrected and we don’t need staff going to conferences to be “indoctrinated”.

Citizen Comment:

  • Shannon Keever said withdrawing from the ALA is a knee jerk reaction, it’s insulting to say librarians are going to conferences to be indoctrinated and that these intelligent, educated people cannot think for themselves. She further stated that this is a ridiculous discussion based on your political ideology and that the Commissioners have said things they should not have and they remain Commissioners.

Satcher’s motion was approved 6-0 (Bearden absent)


Link to Good Governance Guidelines

The agenda was not posted until Thursday evening January 4, with updates after 8pm on Monday January 8. An apparent impact was that Chair Rahn did not have the most current agenda during the meeting causing confusion.

There were excellent citizen comments on many items.

Both Commissioners Ballard and Kruse made convincing points that membership in the American Library Association significantly benefited our library system and that the current objections to membership were "making a mountain out of a molehill." They voted to withdraw from ALA membership rather than ask for the review suggested by Kruse.

The meeting was respectful. Chair Mike Rahn is learning his new role and its procedures with guidance from County Attorney Clague on quasi-judicial items. He did not follow BoCC Rules and Procedures on Item #44. No one asked for any consent agenda item to be pulled; the consent agenda was approved, and then Commissioner Rahn reopened Item #44 after the Consent Agenda was approved.

The Aqua By The Bay Project’s request to SWFMWD to put in Gabion walls and have no buffer was correctly pointed out, which can have major environmental and irreparable damage, yet there was no move to ask staff for further study or schedule a workshop before approval.


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  • WTF

    The BOCC does not want to hear from the public. Still no call for Citizens that can't make it to chambers.

    The gang of 6 are bought and sold by developers, Akward on the Bay was living proof

    Meanwhile in Orange County sets an example all 67 counties should follow

    But in the last 200 years, Florida lost more than 9 million acres of wetlands — meaning it lost more wetlands, in acres, than any other state, according to a report published in 1990 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Still, Florida remains the state with the most wetlands, according to the agency.

    Locally, Orange County lost 5.6% of its wetland acreage in the last thirty years, Hull said Tuesday, citing a recent study conducted as part of the process to revise the county’s Wetland Conservation Areas Ordinance.


    Thursday, January 11 Report this