The Longboat Key Town Commission postponed a decision on whether to put up $100,000 to keep the trolley running in the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key.
The commission hopes that Town Manager Bruce St. Denis can work with the county administrators in both Manatee and Sarasota counties before the end of the year to keep the service operational without having to spend town taxpayer money.
Manatee County officials have only agreed to fund $200,000 of the $300,000 Longboat Key trolley route in Manatee County.
Despite low ridership on Longboat — two to three riders per hour and approximately 30 riders per day — Vice Mayor Jim Brown defended the service.
“This is a link in a regional transportation system that we will never get back if it disappears,” said Brown, who still believes Manatee County should completely fund its portion of the route. “It’s like they think Longboat Key doesn’t even exist in Manatee County until we give them their $50 million in taxes every year.”
Commissioner Phillip Younger agreed.
“I feel like Manatee County is treating Longboat Key like a golden goose and taking everything they can from us, and in return, we get nothing,” Younger said.
Hearing from Finance Director Tom Kelley that the town contributes $347,000 per year that goes into a Manatee County transportation trust fund only seemed to bolster Brown and Younger’s arguments.
“We should go to Manatee County and say we want our service returned for the money we put in,” Younger said.
Brown suggested the town contribute $100,000 and Manatee County contribute the other $200,000 needed to keep the trolley operational in Manatee County.
But Commissioner Hal Lenobel suggested the town delay action until the end of the year to see if the town can work out a solution.
Sarasota County has already agreed to continue its Longboat Key trolley service in Sarasota County, at a cost of $300,000, without any monetary contribution from the town.
Sarasota County is unwilling to extend its route any farther than Bayfront Park for both monetary and scheduling reasons.
Going any farther north would require both an additional bus or trolley and would alter planned one-hour pickup and drop-off times.
The Manatee County portion of the route will expire Dec. 31, unless the commission and both counties agree to an arrangement.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].