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Myakka residents want better hurricane response communication

Attendees at a county meeting in Myakka City said they hoped to see a quicker response.

The Myakka area saw Manatee County’s largest struggles from Hurricane Ian. (File photo)
The Myakka area saw Manatee County’s largest struggles from Hurricane Ian. (File photo)
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At a “community conversation” meeting hosted by Manatee County on Nov. 3, Myakka City residents said that in the future, they hope to see a faster response in the event of a major hurricane.

The meeting was hosted at the Myakka City Elementary cafeteria.

Headed by County Administrator Scott Hopes and District 1 Commissioner James Satcher, the event consisted of informal discussions between public officials and citizens.

The event began with brief introductory speeches by Satcher and Hopes before the informal discussions took place.

Hopes told attendees during his speech that the county wanted to know their needs in the short term as well as the long term.

Some residents said they felt the county’s response had not been proactive enough in the aftermath of the storm.

Read more: Myakka area sees county’s largest struggles from Hurricane Ian

Resident Mark Vanderee noted that initially, it was the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office providing water to the area, rather than the county itself.

“They should have taken the initiative,” he said. “I think initially, they were just not acknowledging the severity of things. In fairness, there are very few inland authorities that saw what was going to happen.”

According to a county press release, the county-managed water and food distribution at the Myakka City Community Center began within 48 hours of the storm.

Hopes told attendees during his introductory speech that he understood the magnitude after taking a helicopter flyover in the aftermath of the storm.

“When I saw the magnitude of the flooding, it was a wake-up call   regardless of how resilient you are, you could benefit from the government helping,” Hopes said.

Resident Peggy Poser noted that the county did not make residents aware of the issue of contaminated private wells until the problem had surfaced.

The county provided a press release on the private well contamination on Oct. 4, with the storm impacts having begun on Sept. 28.

Hopes said he was pleased with the public engagement at the event.

“I thought it was very successful,” he said. “People were able to share their experiences, where we can improve.”

Resident Chris McGuinness called the meeting a publicity stunt by the county.

“They didn’t take any questions. The media didn’t get to hear any questions,” he said.

McGuinness had hoped for a public discussion of development in the area.

He said housing under construction near his home, north of State Road 64, west of Dam Road, and east of Uihlein Road, was causing more flooding, something that had been a problem in the past.

McGuinness said that following Hurricane Ian, the entire Waterline Road area was “like a white rapids river.”

Throughout the event, the FEMA table was busy with registrants.