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Date of Issue: December 16, 2009

Anna Maria finds DOT pot of gold

Who says there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? And who says the rainbow can’t be found in Anna Maria?

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford believes there is a pot of gold, particularly after Florida Department of Transportation community liaison Manon Lavoie informed her last month that the DOT had available some transportation enhancement grant funding.

The city already has a $358,000 grant from the federal government through the DOT that it will use to construct a boardwalk at the city pier and for landscaping improvements in that area.

But City Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick, who heads the city’s transportation enhancement grant committee, said Manatee County planning officials were worried there was not enough money to do a 360-foot-long boardwalk and new landscaping at the city pier, as well as put in picnic benches and pavilions and a covered trolley stop.

 Lavoie, however, tracked enhancement grants in the state and found $602,000 unappropriated for the 2009-10 fiscal year. The city moved quickly to apply to add those funds to its already approved grant.

If the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization approved the request at its Dec. 14 meeting as expected, the city will have nearly $1 million for the boardwalk project. The meeting was taking place as The Islander went to press.

Thanks to Lavoie, “We can now do the project with all the improvements originally proposed,” Mattick said.

“Manon really is our advocate,” Barford said.

 More good news is that the DOT will perform the design and engineering for the project. The city will not have to continue its effort to sign a planning agreement with Manatee County for those services.

Work on the agreement was “getting cumbersome” for both the city and county, Barford indicated.

On the down side, the new funding can’t be used for infrastructure improvements to the city pier or any new projects in the ROR. The money is not federal stimulus dollars, the mayor emphasized. It is specific to the approved application for the pier.

Mattick said she was delighted to learn of the additional funds.

“We can have a better boardwalk, more like a nature trail,” she said. “It won’t be like an Atlantic City boardwalk.”

 Mattick said the next step will likely be a meeting between the DOT design and engineering team and the Anna Maria transportation enhancement grant committee. That’s expected by late January, she said.