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LWV Manatee County Commission Notes: 6/11/24


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 6/11/24.

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.]

Invocation – Commissioner Beardon

Pledge of Allegiance – Members of Boys and Girls Club

Items pulled from Consent Agenda – None


  • Employee of the Month presented to Renee Stokes, Youth Librarian in the Department of Veterans and Community Services. Renee is a 27 year Manatee library employee who is always willing to assist patrons with book recommendations and is extremely knowledgeable in the children's/teens library, using her spare time to read these books to better assist patrons.
  • Water Ferry Update and additional ferry opportunity. Elliott Falcione, Director of Tourism, noted that on the Consent agenda is an item for funding for a third water ferry. He described the success of the current system (consisting of 2 pontoon boats) which averages 200+ passengers per day since January and estimate 7,000 cars were reduced from road traffic. He also noted that a survey conducted over the Memorial Day weekend found that 60% of the respondents were aware of the current ferry service and of those, 80% were residents. Due to water chop, there were 41 days when service was suspended. The proposed ferry is a 91 seat (67 enclosed) boat, ADA accessible. The $3 million for a new ferry will use tourism taxes and will take a year to realize. Once the new ferry is in place, the two pontoons will be used for “hopper” services.
  • Proclamation Designating June 11 as National Internship Day to acknowledge and thank summer interns for their participation in the program and for their hard work and dedication to County Government.
  • Proclamation Designating July 2024 as Parks and Recreation Month The county manages close to 50 parks. All are invited to attend a July 26 Family Fun Night to officially acknowledge the recent improvements at G.T. Bray Park.
  • Proclamation Designating June 12 as Women’s Veteran Appreciation Day - Chair Rahn announced that the county is forming a Women’s Veterans task force, Women Veterans of Suncoast, to be headed by Stephanie Peterson. The LWR Library will have a display about the history of women in the military and will host two talks, on 6/13 and 6/27.

Selected Citizen Comments for future agenda items

  • Two citizens asked about the kennels at Bishop and animal welfare, and to reinstate the animal advisory board.
  • Pat Simmons thanked the Board for the new ADA accessible kiosk. 
  • Glen Gibellina commented that the county continues to give misinformation about the donation of land for veterans and noted that no housing is available for women vets.
  • Two members of the Manatee Boys and Girls Club spoke. One requested a Youth member for Advisory Boards and engaging local youth generally. The second member requested that Lincoln High School be recognized as a landmark because of it’s history.

Commissioner Responding Comments: none

Citizen Comments – Consent Agenda Items:

  • Glen Gibellina said that Consent Item 10 [Technical Revision to Affordable Housing Plan] is going to make it impossible for working families to afford to buy a house by a teacher, or someone in the sheriff’s office for example. They would need to make $105,000 to meet the guidelines.

Commissioner Responding Comments:

  • Kruse responded to Glen that the update reflects changes in the federal (not local) regulations, noting that the Area Median Income (AMI) is higher in the most recent April figures, due to rise in wages. In Manatee County it would be $97,000. He said the county needs to suspend the restriction to 120% of AMI.

Approval of Consent Agenda, 6-0


Item 56 - Adoption of Ordinance 24-48, amending Section 2-22-24 of the County Code regulating stopping, standing and parking in county rights-of-way

Aaron Burkett, Traffic Operations Division Manager, explained that this item was the result of citizens (on 103rd St. in Paradise Bay Estates) petitioning for restricted parking on 103rd St. West. A second request from code enforcement is to establish no parking at 24th and 47th, to remove semi-trailer trucks from parking and that reduce traffic flow. It will also improve access to the county Public Safety Complex.

Van Ostenbridge asked if the code enforcement request will result in a lack of area for the semis to stage and said that generally when you squeeze parking out of one area, it will reappear somewhere else.

Public Comment on Item 56:

Peter Crisely, a 30-year resident of Paradise Bay, is concerned that the restricted parking will present a problem for the 8 private homeowners who aren’t part of Paradise Bay Estates.

Item 56 approved 6-0

Items 51-68 – all dealing with Street Lighting Projects. No presentations requested. 

Items 51-68 passed 6-0 (See Governance)

Public comments:

  • Glen Gibellina said that he was a resident of Rubonia South, a marginalized community with no streetlights, sidewalks, or sewers. 

Commissioner comments

  • Van Ostenbridge said that the neighborhood hasn’t been overlooked.
  • Kruse said that Items 51-68, except for 56, correct a previous concern about residents paying for lighting that they didn’t have.
  • Rahn said that the Light Up Manatee project will be rectifying the lighting situation in all Districts. District 2 is complete, and District 3 is in process. 

Regular Agenda Items of Interest

Item 69 - Approval of 2024/25 HUD Action Plan

Tracie Adams, Deputy Director of Community and Veterans Service, said that the department was amending one item on the proposed plan, removing $210,000 for Genesis Health Services Inc for acquisition of new property to preserve and expand affordable health care, dental care and social services available to low- and moderate-income residents. Approved 6-0.

Item 70 - Appointment to ELMAC (Environmental Lands Management and Acquisition Committee)

There were 16 applications submitted from citizens representing a wide range of experience for one, one-year, at-large position. Kruse nominated Kate Horne, a county educator and advisor for the Kiwanis Builders club at Palmetto Charter School. KVO motioned to close nominations. 

Motion to appoint Kate Horne approved 6-0.

Item 71 - Status Reports for American Rescue Plan (ARP) and Generational Impact Projects

William Constanzo, Business Services Manager to gave the presentation.

ARP STATUS REPORT BCC 6.11.2024.PDF.pdf (mymanatee.org)

Constanzo noted that since his previous two updates the Treasury updated the guidelines regarding the encumbered funds to include full time positions and to allow encumbered funds to be moved among projects as the ARP funds need to be encumbered by 12/31/2024 (and spent by 12/31/2026).

ARP provided the County with $78.3 million. 82.5% is spent/completed and 17.5% active. Completed projects include EMS vehicles, Sheriff’s radios, Covid response, assistance for the homeless, and stormwater projects. To avoid loss of funds for the ongoing Moccasin Wallow EMS station, that project has been encumbered.


Generational Impact projects of $52.6 million were launched with some ARP seed money along with other funding. Completed projects include Easter Seals facility for autistic children, new building for PACE girls’ program, Tunnels2Towers land for homeless veterans, and community gardens. In process projects include Under One Roof, daycare reimbursement for county employees, EMS station at Lake Manatee, among others. Future projects will include Light Up Manatee, Stormwater projects, Gateway/Greenway trail and the Fiber Loop.

Commissioners’ comments:

Ballard strongly urged forward motion on the Under One Roof project, a transitional housing project for up to 30 families at one time, along with social service resources in one place that the county intends to build in the former sheriff’s office.

County Administrator Bishop interjected with a request to the Chair if there could be a quick update on Washington Park and was granted time.

Phase One took place from 11/6/23 to 4/12/24 and was an initial cleanup of the site and the construction of two buildings. There has been additional work on part of the site in collaboration with the Port Authority and Army Corps of Engineers. A wetland pit in the corner of the property has been filled in with dredged material from the Port Authority. Hunsicker said if the county had filled the wetland pit it would have been $15 million. Clean fill will top the dredged material to create a preserve in addition to the current Washington Park plans.

Phase Two will include the installation of a prefabricated bathroom, trails, and buffers, which have Federal Department of Environmental Protection approval, and the final design of the community center, which will require FDEP approval. 

Item 72 - Update on EMS Signal Priority/Pre-emption Pilot Project

Public Works Director Chad Butzow called this project a “monumental lift” to improve access for Manatee Memorial Hospital by coordinating signals along the US 41/301 and SR64 corridors for EMS vehicles. This required the collaboration between Manatee County, Bradenton, and Palmetto. It is expected that the system will be fully functional next week. 


Link to Good Governance Guidelines

The presentation about the Island Ferry should have been in the Regular Agenda for more discussion, evidence, and financials. With the ferry operational for only a half year, an expenditure of $3,000,000 to replace the two existing ferries and without the ability to accurately project annual demand needs significantly more analysis work and careful examination of the complete financial implications.

Points of order:

  • The agenda was updated twice after citizen comments were closed.
  • The Washington Park Updates should have been listed on the "County Administrator Agenda Items" rather than interjected out of order during Commissioner Comments.
  • Chair Rahn did not call for Citizen Comments related to Public Hearing Items 51-68 (minus Item 56) before the vote was taken. Rahn’s continued inability to adhere to the Commissions own Rules and Regulations and Roberts Rules of Order are troubling, and confusing to the public. Chair Rahn would benefit from review and familiarity with these basics.

Although legally permissible, the BoCC’s continued use of ARP funds for items other than those to improve infrastructure as originally planned, does not best benefit the public.

Commissioners shouldn’t eat during the meeting, as food is not allowed in the Chambers. Snacking publicly during the meeting is distracting to the procedures.

Taking Item 56 out of order was helpful to the public and to staff, as all of the numerous other public hearings items dealt with lighting projects.

Click here or information on how to phone or email the commissioners. 


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