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Port hears status of impact fee analysis


PALMETTO - The challenge of marketing Port Manatee and its Encouragement Zone to potential businesses is the county-wide road impact fee, the Port Authority was told Thursday.

Port Executive Director David McDonald said the Renaissance Planning Group is nearing the conclusion of the study that authority members had requested.

In the alternative impact fee analysis update, Whit Blanton of the Renaissance Planning Group said it can be marketed to potential businesses to show them how to lower the impact fee." There's nothing in here that we're doing that is advocating for one particular site or one particular use," he said.

"The challenge you have right now is that you have a county-wide impact fee that you've adopted for several years, and that does not allow for a lot of geographic distinction and acknowledgement of differences in trip characteristics, differences in road networks that you have in different parts of the county," Blanton said. "So here you are in a port with level of service 'A' roads for the most part, with an area they you're targeting for development, and you have an impact fee structure that isn't real sensitive to that."

The key benefit of the analysis is defining "port-related business," which would not be a retailer or non-port-related business.

The value is using trip length and trip generation to cut the impact fee, Blanton said. If the zone is too far east, he said, you can lose the advantage of the road network and end up with more traffic on Moccasin Wallow Road.

"It's proximate to the port, it's the type of use," he said. "Hopefully, through this process we can add some clarity."

Financial adviser candidate

McDonald introduced John White to the Port Authority members, and said White has a lot of experience working with ports in both the Great Lakes region and in Florida, as well as with grants and bond issues. "He comes with a great deal of knowledge," McDonald said.

White, the Public Finance Manager for the Southeast Region for Fifth Third Securities, a subsidiary of Fifth Third Bank, for the past three years, said that in addition to 13 years in local government, with experience as the city manager of Jacksonville Beach, and with a lot of cities and counties in the state, as well as with an energy authority in Tennessee.

McDonald said that with the need to roll over commercial paper and the need for strategy and planning, White is the right choice. "We need good advice and good strategy," he said.

He was the financial adviser for the Florida Ports Financing Commission, and did a report looking at the ports' debt capacity and the impact of higher security spending on the ports.

A major concern raised by Donna Hayes after White's presentation was that there was no request for proposal for the position, and she asked if a local provider could not be found to offer the services White could offer. She did compliment him on his resume and qualifications.

"We are skipping the request for proposal process," she said. "We may end up with Mr. White, but I do believe we need to put that out for an RFP. And plus it is an out of town provider, and I think we should at least have the opportunity to see what we have locally here so we can follow our local preference policy that we've always pursued."

She said a manager is needed but there's lots of time for an RFP before the meeting in August.

The rate White is charging may be the going rate, "But entering into this, we don't know that," she said.

The port's attorney, Chip Rice, said in response to a question from Ron Getman that there is no requirement in the statute and no specific requirement in the statutes of the Port Authority that requires an RFP or bids for the financial adviser position.

But there is some language about a competitive selection, he said. "There are, however, alternatives for sole-source procurement and for what is called piggyback onto existing contracts publicly bid."

The policies included a provision that the authority could deal with a situation such as the one with White, and if they wanted to they could select someone without the competitive process, but Rice cautioned that competition is the preferred process. But if someone had unique qualifications, he said, they could skip that process and select him as the financial adviser.

Joe McClash said that it was important to have a financial adviser for the third-party perspective, though the staff often gives good advice. "What excites me about Mr. White's credentials is the ability for him to bring other people into this area for this economic development group from Fifth Third," he said. "You don't get these people locally."

White would charge $250 an hour, or $10,000 for the rest of the fiscal year, the authority was told, and the port has the money.

The members voted 6-1, with Hayes dissenting, to put the issue of hiring White on the agenda for the Tuesday, June 23, County Commission meeting.

Financial report looks good

Bob Armstrong of the port staff said that the port is doing well.

"The finances have stayed strong," he said, with revenues $545,000 higher than last year at this time, and expenses $234,000 less. The port's interest expense is at less than 1 percent, including fees.

For the eight months ending May 31, the post has had operating revenues of $7.5 million and operating expenses of $5.5 million.

County government representative

The Port Authority voted 4-2, with Larry Bustle and John Chappie dissenting and Gwendolyn Brown absent, on a motion by McClash to ask County Administrator Ed Hunzeker to send a county representative to the Port Authority meetings.

"When I was chairman, I tried for two years to request the county administrator to send a representative from the county to these meetings. Is there a county representative here from staff?" he asked.

"Mr. Hunzeker told me he was coming but I know yesterday he missed work because of a family matter," Carol Whitmore said.

Bustle said he opposed the motion.

"I think it's out of order," he said, noting that it could be done "off-line" and Chappie agreed with him.

But Hayes said it was just a request.

McClash said that not having a county representative to hear the conversations at the Port Authority meetings meant that the county administrator is out of the loop on what's happening with the port and the Port Authority.

"The only reason I'm supporting it," Whitmore said, "is because someone needs to go back and tell Ed and his staff what happened here," and she mentioned that Hunzeker had heard about the Encouragement Zone second hand.

"I supported the motion and seconded it because it is a request," Hayes said. With a county administrator and two deputy administrators, she said, at least one of them should be at the port meetings so there are no surprises.

Bustle said that they're working hard doing what they were told to do to get ready for the 3 p.m. budget meeting because the commissioners flagged several items.

Whitmore said she agreed with Bustle on that issue. "I don't think the upper people should be here only because they are working their butt off trying to do what we want them to do," she said.

"I know they're working hard, too," Hayes also said, but it's just a request that someone come and listen.

Getman said he agreed, and that he wanted someone at the meetings. "I kind of was expecting somebody here today," he said.

The board voted 4-2, with Gwendolyn Brown absent and Chappie and Bustle dissenting, to ask that someone from the county be at the post meetings.

Later, at the county commissioners' budget meeting, Hunzeker said it was a scheduling conflict, and he promised to be be at future meetings or send a representative.

Other Port Authority work

The members voted 6-1 on delegation of authority to McDonald, the port's executive director, and 6-0, with Brown absent, to approve the following consent agenda items:

  • To budget $50,000 in the Access Control Gates Project with 75 percent funded by a Homeland Security Grant.

  • To approve additional pre- and post-dredge surveys for $12,214 adjacent to Berth 12, subject to review and approval of the Florida Department of Transportation.


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