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Longboat Key trolley service to continue

By Nick Walter, Islander Reporter

The Longboat Key Trolley lives on.

At a Sept. 16 Manatee County budget hearing, county administrator Ed Hunzeker announced a proposal that will keep the trolley service running through Dec. 31 but requiring a budget amendment of $70,000.

He said the transit department must then come up with alternative revenues to pay for service, which will be addressed at the county’s Sept. 28 meeting.

Many Longboat Key officials attended the county’s Sept. 14 meeting as the county considered eliminating the two-year-old transit service because commissioners decided the trolley did not produce adequate ridership compared to how much revenue it brought in.

“People are just starting to depend on the service,” Longboat Key Vice Mayor Jim Brown said at the meeting.

Manatee County Commission Chair Donna Hayes said she was most concerned with meeting the 2010-11 fiscal budget, which begins Oct. 1.

“We don’t ever want to reduce service in the area,” she said. “But we have a budget we need to meet.”
The commission wanted to save $146,000, or one-third of the trolley’s operational cost. Sarasota County covers the rest.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said Longboat Key should consider having business contribute money to the trolley, citing how the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce chips in by selling advertising on its trolleys.

Brown pointed out that Longboat Key “contributes fairly heavily in taxes to Manatee County.”

To which Hayes said, “The Lakewood Ranch area contributes 12 percent of taxes,” and later, “Lakewood Ranch has 12,000 people employed and 30,000 residents, and it doesn’t have a transit. There’s a big need here and, by the way, in Lakewood Ranch they live here year round.”

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