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Opinion
East County Wednesday, Jun. 24, 2020 1 month ago

Lots of wonders for those living in Lakewood Ranch

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Jay Heater: Side of Ranch
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

With all that is happening in our world, you have to wonder.

Will people be willing to get out to vote?

Mike Bennett, the supervisor of elections for Manatee County, isn't sure what the landscape will be when the primaries roll around in August, so he is pushing the envelope when it comes to presenting options for the voters.

One of those options will be to use the Florida Department of Transportation Operations Center at 14000 State Road 70, just west of the Lorraine Road intersection. Bennett was visiting the center and saw a large board room he said will be perfect to stage an early voting site.

Bennett found a Florida statute (101.71) that stated, "Public, tax-supported buildings shall be made available for use as polling places upon the request of the supervisor of elections."

He pulled his trump card June 2 with FDOT District 1 Secretary L.K. Nandam, who told Bennett he would get back to him.  Then two weeks passed.

FDOT Communications Specialist Brian Rick explained the FDOT had to research several issues, such as what happens in the event of a hurricane when the FDOT boardroom becomes critical to emergency efforts. Bennett felt the FDOT was stalling with the hope he would go away. He said the only issue was inconvenience.

He would need the site nine days in August and 14 days in October and November for early voting. He let it be known he would go to the governor's office if needed to get his request approved.

On June 19, Nandam and Bennett agreed to work out the details to use the site for early voting.

What's the buzz with helicopters?

Social media was abuzz last week because helicopters were flying low over neighborhoods in the State Road 64 corridor. This happened a year ago and I called the Sheriff's Office and was told it was the Sheriff's Office helicopter with the pilot doing training runs. I thought it might be the same kind of thing, but I called last week and was told it was Manatee County doing mosquito abatement.

I'm all for anything that gets rid of mosquitos, but can they slightly alter their routes so they aren't going right over the houses? On Oct. 26, 1978, I was sitting on the University of Arizona campus when a U.S. Air Force fighter jet exploded over the campus, and my head, and crashed just south of it, killing one person and injuring six others. The pilot, who survived, ejected 200 feet over the campus as he pointed his aircraft toward a football field, only to have the plane veer off onto a street. The Air Force never scheduled another route over the campus. Forgive me if I am a little sensitive when a see a low flying aircraft over a home.

What's that awful burn smell?

Good thing we all have masks now. If you live on the north side of Lakewood Ranch, I imagine you have gone outside late at night to walk the dog and have struggled to breathe because of a controlled burn to clear land for development. I spend days worrying about COVID-19 particles in the air and now I am hunched over, coughing up a lung due to smoke-filled air. Have you experienced the same kind of thing lately?

When will the S.R. 70/Eagle Trace red light be turned on?

The new, temporary red light on White Eagle Boulevard and State Road 70 is covered up with cloth and the construction crews are gone. The only thing remaining must be flipping a switch. Hopefully, if it's ready, that is soon. An FDOT spokesman said that although it is a state road, it is a county project. A Manatee County spokesman said the red light will become operational some time in July, but that the FDOT has to approved it first. I would hate to see a serious accident there with a fully operational signal light not being used.

Will school district transportation costs skyrocket?

I wonder if transportation will be the overriding reason that forces the School District of Manatee County to continue with e-learning, at least on a part-time basis. Obviously, if the district only allows one student per seat due to social distancing, it's going to take more buses and more drivers to handle the need. Almost double the transportation cost? That should make an impact. Parents who are counting on school being in regular session so they can return to work should be worried.

Will teachers be forced to take a pay cut?

I wonder if the district is going to discuss teacher salary cuts in light of school district budget woes caused by the pandemic. The voters approved a 1 mill property tax rate increase in 2018 to generate $33 million annually and to support an increase in teacher salaries, so I am sure a pay cut would be only in a worst-case scenario. It will be interesting to see how the district deals with the financial strife that would appear to be coming its way.

 

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