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LWV Manatee County Commission Notes: 4/23/24


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 4/23/2024, observed by Coleen Friedman.

Link to Agenda and Meeting Video

[Note: After the retirement of Mike Bennett, James Satcher was appointed Manatee County Supervisor of Elections by Governor DeSantis. Therefore, currently there are only 6 County Commissioners.]

Before the meeting was called to order, there was an “invasion” by costumed Manatee Conquistadors, who read a proclamation on behalf of Hernando DeSoto. This "show" was a promotion for the DeSoto Parade taking place on Saturday.

Invocation – Pastor Luke Stockeland, First Baptist Church of Bradenton

Pledge of Allegiance – Aiden Jackson, Manatee HS JROTC (class of 2025)

No items pulled from the Consent Agenda by Commissioners.

F. Port Authority meeting - Employee recognition

Abby Lindecamp has served 5 years for the Port Authority as Deputy Director of Business and Finance. Previously she worked as an accountant in the Clerk’s office for 18 years .

Consent agenda approved 6-0. The Port Authority meeting adjourned.


April Employee of the Month, Garey Morrison

Mr. Morrison has served as a Supervisory Control of Data Analysis in the Utilities Department technician since 2014. He is responsible for the telemetry of wastewater station lifts across the county. As Chairperson Rahn said “he and his team make the bad water go out.” 


  • National Arbor Day – April 26. Charles Hunsicker recognized the work of the ELMAC tree advisory committee on tree installations, noting that 1.2 million trees have been planted in Duette Preserve alone and provide a tree canopy in the county in other locations as well. On Saturday, the Florida Extension Service is hosting a tree give-away at Palma Sola Botanical Park from 3-6 PM.
  • Autism Awareness Month proclamation
  • Boys and Girls Club Youth and Jr Youth Recognition Month, May, was highlighted by the introduction of Gracie, an 11th grader at Palmetto HS, recipient of the youth recognition award and Elizabeth, a 5th grader, who is the junior youth award winner. 
  • Suncoast Remake Learning Days Proclamation, from April 20-May 4, was received by the head of the Patterson Foundation, sponsor of the event, which hosts over 300 hands-on events for youth of all ages across Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties.
  • Manatee Community Development Month, in April, highlights the Community Development Block Grant program and home investment partnerships, which principally provide funds for affordable housing. In addition to housing, the team partners with Turning Points to sponsor Project Smile which provided dental care to 2900 patients.
  • Small Business Week Proclamation, from April 28 – May 4, 2024, was presented to the President and CEO of the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce, Jacki Dezelski.


Archer First Response System Pilot –

Steve Harris from Tampa General Hospital spoke about the county’s collaboration on a pilot project exploring how small, unmanned aircraft (drones) could be used to drive better clinical outcomes.  In 2019, Tampa General Hospital partnered with ArcherFRS. Archer First Response Systems was founded in 2014 with the aim of equipping 911 agencies with drones to transport time-sensitive medical devices such as AED and Narcan

Tampa General and FRS sought a municipal EMS agency to partner with to implement this technology. The FRS will be installed at the Lakewood Ranch EMS Station with a first phase coverage of 3.5 miles. It is linked to the Emergency Call Center dispatch system which would initiate drone delivery for emergency situations, simultaneously to the dispatch of an EMS vehicle. The drone has instructions, and the dispatchers are trained to instruct the caller on use of the needed intervention until EMS arrives.  

Construction Dust Reduction Program

Over the past few months dust storms have been blanketing Parrish neighborhoods from the construction of the Rye Ranch development triggering many complaints. Scott May noted the key requirements of the existing ordinance Section 520J in the land development code specifies.

“Upon notification by the County that dust, particle emissions, erosion, and siltation control measures are inadequate, the developer shall immediately cease operation and restore all damaged surfaces and initiate additional measures to correct the adverse impact before commencing further operations.”

Staff said that they have heard from the citizens and partnered with contractors and the Building Industry Association (BIA) to create new requirements. The goal is to mitigate the dust without stopping work. Current and future projects will be required to limit site clearing to 100 acres at a time; mitigate blowing dust with wind fences or other barriers; to water when possible. A dust control plan will be required for all future projects and within two weeks of current projects.

Commissioner comments:

  • Kruse said this wouldn’t have been a problem if the current code had been enforced and there should be assurances that the county will enforce these new requirements.
  • Turner said he agrees that the cap of 100 acres on clearing sites will make a big difference since the current complaints stem from sites of 1100 acres. 
  • Rahn reiterated that the county is in a drought, but citizens need to be protected.

N. Regular Agenda – Appointment of Kate Barnett as Director of HR

Kate Barnett has been with Manatee County for 3 years. She began as a temporary employee as a staffing lead and as human resources support in two departments. This led to her being hired as a full-time Talent Acquisition Specialist. Soon thereafter she was promoted to Employment Services Manager and for the past 10 months has been the Interim Director of Human Resources. She is committed to continuous improvement and aligning HR initiatives to maximize employee engagement, productivity, and retention. Before joining Manatee County Government, she spent 8 years building a business and is currently pursuing her Juris Masters from Florida State University.

Motion to approve her appointment passed 6-0.

Selected Citizen Comments for Future Agenda Items

  • Tracey Washington,the mother of the late Breonte Davis, asked the Board to consider the Community Assistance and Life Liaison (CALL) program to reduce police involvement in non-violent calls. This was recently implemented in Tampa. Breonte Davis, who had mental illness, was tasered twice to take him into custody and later died of cardiac arrest.
  • Six others also endorsed the CALL program to specifically address mental health crisis calls and reduce police involvement.
  • Pat Simmons - challenged the Board to be more aware of citizens with disabilities. The system for signing up to speak is not ADA accessible.
  • Mike Meehan contended that the county had surplus funds and could reduce property taxes by 30%.
  • Betty Sailes Rhodes stated that the legislature had passed vouchers for summer swimming lessons for children under 4 and thought that the vouchers should be made available in Manatee County. 

Selected Commissioner Comments:

  • County Administrator Bishop stated that they are making the sign-in machine ADA compliant and obtaining swimming vouchers.
  • Ballard and Van Ostenbridge noted that there are county services to provide mental health interventions in a crisis.

Commissioner Kruse commented that citizens had come to the meeting to discuss dust control and made a motion to open public comments again for them. It passed 6-0. 

More Citizen Comments for Future Agenda

There were 6 citizens of Foxbrook, or nearby communities, who commented that there was overwhelming dust and dirt which has caused considerable damage to their homes and their health. It was noted that the dirt was from old farms which can contain toxins.   Glen Gibillina added that  dust isn’t an “act of God” and said that with a law already on the books the county should “red tag” every day and in addition, make the builders create a bond so that families can apply for funds to repair damaged homes.

Approval of Consent Agenda with no public comment, 6-0

Regular Agenda Items of Interest

L. Advertised Public Hearings (Presentations upon request)

Items 77-80 passed without public or commissioner comment 6-0.

82. Public Safety – Safe Haven Baby Boxes 

Jodie Fiske, Director of Public Safety returned to the Board with the costs of the Safe Haven Baby Box system, per a request made at the Feb 27, 2024, meeting. These boxes will allow anonymous, but safe, abandonment of an infant. The cost including service, fees and expenses is $20-22,000 per box. The box is connected to an alert system within the 911 system and includes 24/7, 365 days a year monitoring. Fiske is asking the Board for a motion to make an interlocal agreement with the city of Bradenton to conduct a pilot. Bradenton has a Safe Haven program at the fire station, though not with the box and they have expressed interest in conducting the pilot.

Kruse asked what the threshold is for expanding the program. Fiske said it is difficult to measure and revealed that the state has had a Safe Haven program in Ocala and Wildwood since 2019 and there has been one baby surrendered to date. 

Commissioner Items

Kruse – Animal Shelter Update

Kruse introduced Sarah Brown, Deputy Director of Children and Veterans Services, to provide an update on the status of the prefab dog kennel completions at Bishop Animal Shelter, the kennels for Port Manatee and the closing of the Palmetto Animal Shelter. 

The prefab kennel design for the Port Manatee jail site has a 12-week lead time to order the kennels and the order is contingent on-site readiness. The program will train inmates to provide additional training to dogs who are adoptable but need basic training. Lee County has a successful program in place since 2004.

Overpopulation in the county’s shelters is also being addressed with an innovative program to keep people and their pets together. The county will convert the 17th Ave building into a resource hub for pet owners, with the goal of providing resources (training, veterinarian support, case management) to help people keep their pets.

The redesign for the Bishop adoption facility is about 30% complete. There have been adjustments to the design to control the budget, which delayed implementation. Construction should start in late 2024.

2024 Meeting Schedule

Motion to approve passed 6-0.

Rahn - Consolidation of Fire Districts

Rahn said that the Board has been approached by people asking about efficiency. County Administrator Bishop said the county has no control over consolidations because we aren’t a charter county. 

Van Ostenbridge –

  • Lobbyist Registration: Van Ostenbridge noted that commissioners are regularly lobbied and mentioned that it is usually “lawyers for developers.” He would like to have a lobbyist registration process.

Motion passed 6-0.

  • Support for Israel (not on the agenda) - Van Ostenbridge noted that there has been a wave of antisemitism around the country, and he made a motion to have the county display support in the lobby of the government building as well as libraries that include the Israeli flag, photos of the hostages (from the Oct. 7 attack) and a message of support and solidarity for the Israeli people.

Motion passed 6-0.


Link to Good Governance Guidelines

  • There was a rearrangement of the agenda to allow employees to return to work but delayed citizens who came to comment. It was particularly delayed for those commenting on dust control, which was on the agenda as a presentation. Citizen comments should precede presentations such as the dust control and emergency drones, in consideration of citizens who care to comment. At this meeting, citizens had to wait the entire morning to do so. It was considerate of Kruse to request that public comment be reopened so that those citizens waiting to discuss dust control could be heard before lunch.
  • It is the chair’s responsibility to maintain civility at the meeting by reminding a speaker of the civility code. Although Van Ostenbridge was upset by derogatory terms (killer cops) used by some commenters to describe the police, it is not appropriate for a fellow board member to criticize the chair's handling of the meeting during the public meeting.

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  • WTF

    Lets not forget public comment profiling by the Manatee County Sheriff Officers. If your black you have the engagement of 2 MCSO flanking each side of you when you speak. Others not at all except for a Gadfly who got the same treatment on the same day.

    Saturday, April 27 Report this