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Side of Ranch

No money, but Manatee County plans for new Palmetto park?

Premier project drags, but $30 million will be spent on a veterans' memorial park.

The 25,000-square-foot Lakewood Ranch Library is the only project that has been completed at Premier Park.
The 25,000-square-foot Lakewood Ranch Library is the only project that has been completed at Premier Park.
Photo by Harry Sayer
  • East County
  • Opinion
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A common refrain to explain the county's slow-moving Premier Park efforts involves funding.

I've been told by multiple commissioners that "we don't have the money" to do it all right now.

In was in December, 2017 when Manatee County paid Schroeder-Manatee Ranch $5.2 million for the 127-acre Premier Sports Campus and the 36 acres to the north of that property. 

It was on Sept. 11, 2018 that the East County Observer ran the story about Manatee County Commissioners approving $4.6 million to purchase 75 acres north of the Premier Sports Campus from SMR "for a future hub for government services and parks and recreation offerings."

Part of the 2017 agreement was that the county had to construct an aquatics center in five years.

Obviously, at the time, Manatee County commissioners thought they had the money.

Six years have passed. An aquatics center now has a timeline of being open in 2026.

If you live in East County, you might well have given up on seeing many of the promised amenities that were supposed to be built on the land our tax dollars purchased.

You might well have stopped thinking about it, too, until the Feb. 14 Commission meeting.

That's when Commissioners talked about building a $30 million park in Palmetto.

Manatee County's release reads, "The Manatee Board of County Commissioners has approved funding ($4 million) for the initial plans and design work to establish a Memorial Park to salute veterans on a 24-acre piece of county-owned property at 5431 Buckeye Road in Palmetto."

Oh, by the way, no plan was offered on how to pay for it.

It's the kind of nonsense that should awaken the sleeping-bear residents of East County.

It's not nonsense that we honor our veterans, but aren't there better ways to do it? 

The county says of the Palmetto park, "Plans call for permanent memorials paying respect to participants in every American-involved armed conflict, from the American Revolution through the Iraq War. Each branch of the armed services will be honored, as well as hometown heroes, women veterans and the Manatee County Veteran of the Year. The proposed park would be built adjacent to a future school site along the south side of Buckeye Road. The south side of the park would be bordered by the Artisan Lakes subdivision."

I have nothing but respect for veterans. My father was a Marine who served in Korea. But veterans here don't need a memorial. Money would be better spent improving veterans services.

If I am a veteran living in East County, and I have kids or grandkids, I would rather have park amenities than a plaque.

I would also note that our penniless county will spend $2,381,860 for an expansion of the second floor at the G.T. Bray Recreation Center.

It would be great to have an expansion of the Premier Park Recreation Center. Oh, wait. There is no Premier Park Recreation Center. 

I guess we should hope that Manatee County has grand plans for an indoor events center at Premier Park or some kind of major indoor facility to host activities in the summer, as well as community events and concerts.

That would be awesome. The Lakewood Ranch Library is an amazing facility and it shows what is possible.

But how about building some of the less expensive items, so the residents can start going to the park? 

Why isn't there work being done on the event lawn (pavilion), the baseball/softball complex, the basketball court, the skate park, the volleyball courts, the playgrounds, the dog park?

No money?

In September 2022, the Commission announced it would borrow $232 million to accelerate 19 infrastructure projects, nine which were in East County. Much of that was road construction, but it also included Premier Sports Campus items along with the Premier Park pool. How about another loan to get the items I just listed?

Take the plunge, please.

Oh wait, there's no pool.

Look at the bigger picture

The Commission's decision to add school zone cameras to reduce speeding and make it safer for the kids is understandable. However, I have a probably more unpopular viewpoint.

In January, the county announced it would "increase" the speed limit on White Eagle Boulevard by 5 mph from Gatewood Drive to State Road 64 for better "uniformity." It makes me wonder if commissioners have driven that stretch of road.

The problem isn't the school zones. Drivers approach the zone like they are competing in a NHRA Funny Car event, and then they hit the parachute to slow down for the school zone. The cameras aren't going to affect them. The problem areas are the stretches of road before the school zones. That's the parents who got up too late to get their kids to school on time or those who left home at 8:58 a.m. to get to work by 9 a.m.

Instead of increasing the speed on White Eagle Boulevard, they should have decreased it, if they believe in protecting the kids who are walking to school. Patrolling that area is a much better answer, but that means we would have to get our Sheriff's Office an adequate staff to do it. White Eagle Boulevard, from S.R. 64 to S.R, 70 is a race course ... except for the school zones.


Need a tax break?

Here's a public service announcement, since this is the kind of thing I procrastinate on doing.

With an increase in our home values, many of us in Manatee County might be wondering if we can get any kind of tax break. Manatee County Property Appraiser Scott Tussing noted that the 2024 Property Tax Application deadline is March 1.

Those eligible can apply for personal tax exemptions to save money on their property tax bill. Exemptions are available for low-income seniors, disabled veterans, deployed military personnel, those who are disabled, widows and widowers, and those who want to homestead their property.

Manatee County residents who bought a home in 2023 and are not currently receiving a homestead exemption must filed by March 1. In order to qualify, you must have owned and occupied the home before Jan. 1. Those who have lived in their home for years can apply as well, but be aware if you have owned your home for years, your home might have appreciated in value so much you might pay more in taxes, even if you are eligible to homestead it.

You can call the Property Appraiser's Office at 748-8208 if you have questions, or send an email to [email protected].



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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