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Date of Issue: April 28, 2010

Commissioner speaks out on spending

Holmes Beach Commissioner Al Robinson called the project “asinine.”

But Robinson, speaking at the April 19 Island Transportation Planning Organization meeting at Holmes Beach City Hall, was not concerned with the 209 foxtail trees planned for the intersection of East Bay Drive and Manatee Avenue. He was concerned with the $697,000 price tag.

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger agreed, calling the amount “exuberant.”

However, the project includes new signal arms and traffic lights at the intersection in addition to landscaping. After the Manatee-Sarasota Metropolitan Planning Organization released its five-year program in December, Holmes Beach benefitted from funding for beautification associated with the project: trees to be planted from the intersection south on East Bay Drive to 31st Street. The project also will include 42 Alexander palms, a crape myrtle tree, 96 beach sunflower plants and a mulch tree.

City commissioners must agree to reject the funding for the project. If funds are rejected, they would be passed on to other statewide transportation or beautification projects.

“I don’t think it’s even possible to do all the planting they’re talking about,” Bohnenberger said.

In April 2009, Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine announced to the city commission that the DOT had agreed to install stronger mast arms and heavier signal equipment at the intersection.

The new mast arms, however, were not scheduled for installation until 2010, when other improvements were scheduled to take place on East Bay and Gulf drives in the city. The beautification is part of those planned improvements.

The city’s parks and beautification committee already expressed its displeasure with the price and quantity of trees. At the committee’s Jan. 6 meeting, member Melissa Snyder said, “Basically, it’s a beautification plan and, in that plan, there’s no beautification. Just one kind of tree for miles.”

In other business, MPO executive director Michael Howe said there are no other Island projects represented on the MPO’s list of major projects. He said there are 17 projects on the waiting list.