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Longboat Key Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 3 months ago

Manatee Commissioners signal general support of Longboat beach project

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Board votes 7-0 to authorize County Administrator to further discuss town's request for $2.69 million.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

Manatee County Commissioners this week voted unanimously to support conversations between Administrator Cheri Coryea and Town Manager Tom Harmer on the town’s financial-assistance request for a renourishment project on Greer Island.

At the county’s Monday meeting, Manatee commissioners discussed Mayor George Spoll’s letter of Nov. 6, seeking $2.69 million to help pay for two sand-saving groins and associated dredged sand on the erosion-prone sand spit at the northern tip of Longboat Key, generally expressing support for the idea.

They voted unanimously to authorize the County Administrator to discuss the project with Harmer with the hopes of revisiting the matter in deeper detail when the two panels of elected officials meet jointly in March.

Commission Chair Stephen R. Jonsson, whose district includes Longboat Key, raised an issue similarly raised by Spoll in his letter: the disparity between the county taxes paid by Longboat’s Manatee County residents and the services that are delivered in return.

“From my research, the town has always contributed more to Manatee County than we have given back,’’ he said, adding he supported a deeper exploration of the proposal.

The issue of Longboat Key possibly someday moving toward one county or the other tinged Commissioner Carol Whitmore’s initial remarks. Whitmore said she was generally in favor of Manatee County assisting with the beach work, but mentioned the possibility of a clause requiring reimbursement if Longboat Key ever decides to “secede” and becomes wholly part of Sarasota County, though she said she thought such an action was unlikely.

“I do think they deserve some kind of funding,’’ she said. “Greer Island, even though we don’t say it is a park, it is a major attraction for a lot of people on boats. We do need to protect that, and we do need protect that for the citizens of Manatee County.''

Jonsson said he would not favor such reimbursement clause.

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said she found talk of assisting Longboat Key “refreshing.”

“Let’s remember, Manatee County truly has not been a partner for quite a while, for many years now, with Longboat Key,’’ she said. “They pay taxes just like everyone else. We have not worked as if Longboat Key was a member of Manatee County.’’

Baugh said parking and public access to the beach would have to be assured but also supported the notion of Coryea and Harmer further discussing the matter.

Spoll’s letter offers a general overview of the town’s plans for beach work and notes specifically the estimated costs of the work that will benefit Greer Island and protect properties on that end of the island.

It also notes that town residents “annually contribute over $25 million to Manatee County government and school board, for which we have received a nominal return.’’ It says the proposal for Manatee to contribute to the sand project has the potential to “provide a win-win for both parties.”

Town Commissioners this month signed off a ballot measure seeking voter approval for borrowing no more than $34.5 million toward a comprehensive beach project totaling around $45 million.

 

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