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Date of Issue: September 09, 2009

Kingfish Boat Ramp agreement in works

The Manatee County Board of Commissioners conceptually agreed Sept. 3 to join in talks with Holmes Beach officials seeking to annex the area west of the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

Earlier this summer, Holmes Beach city commissioners unanimously approved a resolution inviting the county to negotiate a change in boundaries for the Kingfish Boat Ramp area, as well as the area on the south side of Manatee Avenue west of the bridge.

Holmes Beach long believed that the county-operated boat ramp was within city limits, but a survey several years ago indicated the property, which is owned by the Florida Department of Transportation, is unincorporated Manatee County.

Since the survey, Holmes Beach officials have made attempts to persuade county officials to allow the city to annex the land, which serves as a gateway to the Island and Holmes Beach.

Last week, county commissioners voted unanimously for staff to draft a resolution identifying issues for negotiation, including any other areas that might be considered in a boundary change or other parties that might have a say.

“I can’t really see at this time other areas or parties,” but the county should make sure, said deputy county attorney Maureen Sikora.

“What’s before you today is the first step in a series of steps that could lead to an agreement and annexation of this area,” Sikora added.

The county commission still will need to adopt a resolution before negotiations with Holmes Beach get under way.

The county commission decision to move forward reverses a decision reached in November 2006, when a differently composed board rejected the city’s request to a voluntary annexation of Kingfish.

The reason for that rejection was reviewed last week. Commissioners at the time were concerned that if Holmes Beach annexed the area, city regulations would be applied that might interfere with renovations or operations of the boat ramp.

Holmes Beach officials have said the city’s primary interest in annexing Kingfish is public safety, maintaining that the Holmes Beach Police Department, because of its location, is better positioned to police the area than the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Early in the discussion Sept. 3, County Commissioners Carol Whitmore and John Chappie, both Island residents, said they supported Holmes Beach’s request.

Whitmore said she has heard from people who waited more than an hour for law enforcement to respond to a minor accident near the bridge.

Chappie said, “Whenever you are ready to move this forward.… This has always been considered part of Holmes Beach. It’s a safety issue. They are the first responders. Or should be. We need to move forward with this.”

Commissioner Joe McClash said he too was comfortable moving forward, provided that any agreement emphasized that the purpose of annexation is for policing powers.

“Give us a comfort level,” McClash said.

Sikora said, “At this point, I think all issues could be on the table.”

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger and Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine also sought to provide McClash some comfort.

“The city has no interest in managing the Kingfish Boat Ramp,” he said. “There is no revenue benefit to us.… It’s purely a public safety matter.”
        “This is not a power grab by any sense of the imagination,” Romine said.
        “It’s simply a matter of logistics,” he added. “The boat ramp is sitting right there adjacent to our jurisdiction.”