The League of Women Voters of Manatee County Government Committee is monitoring the Board of County Commissioners. This report lists the items of interest to 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 of Manatee County Commissioners Regular Meeting on April 6, 2021, monitored by Anne McFarlane and Ellie Peterson.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
*Note: After the close of the 4/1 Land Use Meeting, the Commissioners declared a local state of emergency regarding Piney Point. A State of Emergency was declared by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties on Saturday. State and local officials were coordinating the situation. More than three hundred homes and multiple businesses in the area around Piney Point were evacuated. Evacuation was lifted on 4/6.
- Acting County Administrator Hopes reported that a command center was set up on site and includes experts from several disciplines from state and local governments, including the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The priorities of the command center are:
- Safety to the residents in the area and the staff working on the disaster,
- Conservation regarding the surrounding waters and land,
- Economic drivers i.e. businesses in the area that have been shut down,
- Remediate negative impact to the environment,
- Keep attention on the berm.
- Engineering companies on site assessed possible immediate risks and began action. The Governor sent in equipment; National Guard aided in efforts as did local public works employees. Water from the leak was pulled by gravitational force into Tampa Bay. The arrival of several pumps made it possible to redirect surface water into shipping channels at Port Manatee and Tampa Bay. The channels will facilitate washing the water out further into the Gulf.
- As of today (Tuesday 4/6/21), about 50% of the water in the pond has been moved with the nutrient rich water going to the Gulf and Bay and the more dangerous water near the bottom of the stack being removed into holding containers or ponds until they can be moved by other means. The water near the bottom has the heavier metals.
- Toxicity of the water was discussed with focus on radioactive contaminants at the center. Charlie Hunsicker, Director of Parks and Natural Resources, presented visuals showing areas where water testing is being conducted. Results of the sampling will be available to citizens in the next few days. At a later date, testing will be done on the sediment at the bottom of the stack and will include tests for unacceptable levels of radioactive material.
- FL Senator Jim Boyd and Florida Senate leader Wilton Simpson are pushing legislation to pay for the full Piney Point cleanup with money from the recent $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill, seeking $200 million from the State of Florida to close the phosphogypsum stacks holding the water and dispose of all the water at the site permanently. Funds would be for constructing a deep injection well, treating the water and disposing of it in the well.
- The Secretary of the FDEP said he would facilitate the permitting process to speed initiation of the construction. A motion was put before the BoCC to begin that process with ASRUS, LLC a well construction company that presented to the Board on March 9, 2021. The BOCC voted yes unanimously on the motion. The Commissioners agreed they would not accept wastewater from any other source for the deep injection well.
- Commissioners noted that prior commissioners and the county are not responsible for this disaster; the property is privately owned and under the state government’s supervision.
Citizens Comments re Future Agenda Items
Glen Gibbalina spoke regarding Livable Manatee, a fund used for impact fees on affordable housing construction. The Board unanimously agreed that it will be addressed at a future meeting.
Floodplain Management (Item 43)
First of 2 public hearings (next 4/20/21). This item concerns proposal for a new ordinance due to changes in FEMA rating system which effects flood insurance on high-risk properties. Click here and go to item 43 for background materials.
- Manatee County is a Class 5 in the Community Rating System (CRS), a voluntary program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), whereby we earn credits for being more restrictive in our regulations than the FEMA regulations. Currently we have enough credits for a 25% discount for flood insurance premiums for properties in a high-risk area. Because of the 1/1/2021 changes in the CRS requirements for manufactured homes elevation, Manatee could lose this full discount and go to a 5% discount without this new ordinance.
- Carl Jusma, St. Petersburg College Junior, Majoring in Business Technology: A new computer system for deployment of the Cares Act,
- Sharu Abraham, USF Sophomore, Majoring in Computer Science: Use of Drones in property management,
- Luis Mazza Wanderley, University of Tampa Senior, Majoring in Advertising and Public Relations: Short and long term use of the Premier Sports Complex, Bradenton Area Convention Center and Powell Crosley Estate,
- Audrey Bennett, NYU Sophomore, Majoring in Applied Data Analytics and Visualization: A grant optimization project,
- Brian Long, USF Senior, Majoring in Psychology: Improve communication between new hires and their department.
- Commissioners thanked all the parties who have worked tirelessly dealing with the emergency.
- The Commissioners generally exhibited good governance throughout the meeting.
Manatee County Commission 3/30 Work Session – The League of Women Voters of Manatee County Government Committee is monitoring the Board of County Commissioners. This report lists the items of interest to 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 of Manatee County Commissioners Work Session on March 30, 2021, monitored by Ginger McCallum and Karen Curlin.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
CIP Budget: General Government (Library, Parks, Public Safety, Technology)
Capital Improvements Plan (CIP)
- Florida Statutes require that all counties develop a five-year Capital Improvement Plan.
- Designed to meet the capital improvement needs of the County.
- Capital improvements include major infrastructure facilities such as roads, bridges, parks, libraries, utilities, and general government facilities (e.g., EMS facilities, Sheriff’s facilities, etc.)
- Updated annually.
- Does not include other agency construction projects.
Goals of CIP Work Session
- Review of the status of existing CIP General Government projects.
- Review of Staff/Department project desires/requests.
- Staff may understand Commission project desires/requests.
Typical revenue sources for capital projects
- Impact fees
- Infrastructure Sales Tax (IST)
- Property Taxes
- Other revenues (State monies, grants, etc.)
Changes to Existing Projects & Department Requests
- Changes to existing projects – net reduction in costs of $3.3m
- Staff/Dept requests for the 5 year plan – net increase in costs of $13.9m
- Commission requests – unknown
Criteria for Projects
- Available Capacity to Bond/Rates.
- Cash Flow to pay debt service.
- Timing of completion of projects – Of particular concern to staff given significant competition for materials and workers.
- Departments will review list of projects individually with each Commissioner to obtain Commissioner feedback on the list, priorities, and any new projects to consider.
- Staff will provide updated information for Commissioners at a mid-April meeting with an overall prioritized list to consider.
- Reminder: this is a multi-step process for each part of the overall budget; goal is to start forming the actual budget in June.
Commissioners expressed interest in a combination of bonds and credit to pay for projects, and completing design and planning phase ahead of time so that when projects are approved they can go to bid/start immediately in order to increase efficient completion of projects.
Baugh noted that Federal funds ($78.2m) coming into the county will positively impact budgets and projects, and affect credit/bonding decisions. Infrastructure funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 must be used by 12/31/2024.
Servia asked if there is demand for more parks, pools, trails, etc., in Manatee County. Hunsicker, Director of Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources, responded that yes, there is a lack of sufficient public services for citizens, and they are a major selling point of new people considering moving to Manatee County.
Animal Welfare Regulation
Discussion of pros/cons of banning the sale of puppies and kittens by retail pet stores. 18 citizen comments; 15 for a ban, 3 against. Whitmore, Servia clearly support a ban; Kruse and Bellamy seemed to be leaning towards supporting a ban and VanOstenbridge said he would not support a ban. This item will likely appear in a future voting meeting.
- The Commissioners generally exhibited good governance behaviors throughout the day.