Tag Archives: News

Environmental group pushes for Cortez Bridge details

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The Cortez Bridge, bottom right, looking east in January toward the village of Cortez, right, the waterfront extending from the bridge and the mainland via Cortez Road. Islander File Photo: Jack Elka
A plaque announces the dedication by the Florida Legislature in 1965 of the Cortez Bridge — eight years after it opened — at the foot of the bridge in Cortez. Critics are saying the Florida Department of Transportation plans for a fixed-span to replace the drawbridge are flawed. Islander Photo: Terry O’Connor

A Cortez Bridge study by the Florida Department of Transportation was a sham, according to ManaSota-88, a nonprofit devoted to public health and environmental issues.

“This is wrong on every level,” said Holmes Beach resident Barbara Hines, ManaSota-88 vice chair and a member of Holmes Beach Planning Commission.

“It appears they selected the most environmentally damaging and least popular alternative,” said ManaSota-88 chairman Glenn Compton.

The DOT announced results April 23 of its Cortez Bridge project development and environmental study, which formalized its preference for a 65-foot-clearance, fixed-span linking Cortez to Bradenton Beach.

“The repair alternative has the least impact on threatened and endangered species and environmental resources,” Hines said. “Why is this not the preferred DOT alternative? We can’t keep destroying the environment. This is just wrong.”

Zachary Burch, DOT spokesman, did not provide a copy of the study, saying it would be released in July. The news release announcing the study results was two pages long.

“We have looked at this issue since the beginning,” said Compton. “Not having that study to review, we have a lot of questions.”

ManaSota-88 joins the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, Cortez Village Historical Society and city officials in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach in questioning the DOT study and its choice of the fixed-span replacement bridge.

The Cortez Village Historical Society issued a statement May 17 noting nearly 90 buildings in the village are certified historic structures by the National Register of Historic Places.

“Each one of these and the rest of the village structures will be affected by the building of the proposed 65-foot-tall fixed bridge,” according to the CVHS statement. “How can the village remain historical with a huge bridge looming over it?

The CVHS noted villagers have repeatedly protested building a high-fixed bridge. The statement calls for the DOT to consider a better alternative, building a new bridge linking the north end of Longboat Key with the mainland.

“This would relieve some of the traffic from Cortez and allow the historic village to remain without the changes a 65-foot bridge would entail,” according to the CVHS statement.

Before the project can move forward, many questions about the DOT decision and the study must be addressed, according to ManaSota-88.

“The study was pretextural,” Hines said. “They had no intention of doing the (bridge repair). You can’t say let’s pretend.”

Burch said the DOT study assessed bridge and road alignment options over about a mile of Cortez Road/State Road 684. The new bridge would cross the Intracoastal Waterway from Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach to 123rd Street West in Cortez, replacing the 17.5-foot clearance drawbridge.

ManaSota-88 needs the complete study to determine whether the DOT abused its discretion in choosing to design a high-rise, fixed-span rather than repairing the existing bascule bridge, according to Compton and Hines.

The DOT provided roughly a dozen formal opportunities for the public to participate in the planning process during the past five years. But was public comment and preference considered in choosing a bridge alternative?

Linda Molto, FISH board member, said it was not.

“They think we are all idiots,” Molto said.

DOT drawbridge inspections between 2008 and 2012 found it functionally obsolete and repairable.

Design on the new bridge is scheduled to begin this year. The right-of-way phase is funded beginning in 2020.

A new bridge also requires final approval from the DOT Office of Environmental Management in Tallahassee and funding for construction.

“Funding will always be the ultimate decision on what happens,” Compton said. “There’s still opportunity to express opinion on what type of bridge should be there.”

Rehabilitation of the existing bridge is the least environmentally damaging option and least disruptive to residents of Cortez and Bradenton Beach, according to Compton.

ManaSota-88 also wants the DOT to answer the following questions:
• Why wasn’t a citizen’s advisory committee convened to help the DOT study proposed alternatives?
• Did the DOT study measure potential effects on neighborhoods, communities, archaeological and historical resources, noise pollution, navigation, hurricane evacuation, wind and flooding?
• Were comprehensive plans in Anna Maria, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Manatee County analyzed to determine whether the new span would affect land use or community travel patterns?
• Has a scientific study been done on potential environmental effects?
• Will the increased impervious surface on the new bridge result in more contaminants from stormwater runoff?
• Will a new bridge generate more traffic?
• Did the study assess environmental and social impacts?
• Are environmental justice issues being considered regarding access to Cortez?

The DOT has responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act for environmental review. Does the new bridge meet NEPA standards?

“You have to think of the people,” Hines said. “The folks in Cortez have fought very hard for a very long time to maintain their way of life and this would destroy that.”

Bridge battles won, war lost

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The Islander Feb. 2, 1998, announces the DOT decision to halt replacement plans for the Anna Maria Island Bridge on Manatee Avenue and opt instead for repairs.

By Jennifer Glenfield
Special to The Islander

Motorists lined up on the Cortez Bridge in the early 1990s waiting for boats to pass through the open drawbridge were likely handed a flyer urging them to save Anna Maria Island.

“You’ve Found Paradise,” one of the flyers read at the top, in green print. And, at the bottom, “You’ve just been handed the way to save it.”

The flyers were printed by Save Anna Maria Inc., a nonprofit founded by island residents to challenge island bridge proposals they felt could negatively impact their community.

Included on many of the flyers were calls for others to join their cause. The papers asked for a membership fee and promised an official membership card, a newsletter and to challenge to development. Incorporated in 1993, SAM was motivated by Florida Department of Transportation proposals to replace the island bridges.

In SAM documents archived at the Manatee Public Library, the group said it was formed because islanders felt “disgusted” by how the DOT handled the bridge replacement proposals — without community consideration or input.

Members demonstrated on weekends and even held a straw poll at island polling locations on Election Day 1992 — a move some Holmes Beach commissioners found disruptive.

Now, more than 20 years later, SAM is only a memory, but a well documented one. Members kept track of minutes, budgets, letters to government officials, meeting agendas and newspaper clippings and organized them in three-ring binders.

Nancy Deal, a SAM member since 2001, took those binders to the Central Library in Bradenton, where they’re archived in the local history section.

Among mundane details of building materials, traffic studies and budgets, the scrapbook-like binders chronicle how members of the community won battles over “megabridges” with the DOT.

SAM membership grew rapidly after its inception with more than 70 members in the early days. With more members, came resources. The group was able to mount a legal challenge disputing the permit application to replace the Anna Maria Island Bridge over environmental concerns. In 1995, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection recommended denial of the permit.

Three years later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Southwest Florida Water Management District denied the permit application in administrative hearings, brought forward by SAM.

Around the same time, SAM helped earn the island governments a seat at the metropolitan planning organization’s table, a body that deals with infrastructure plans.

And while SAM was the driving force behind bridge replacement protests, it was not without help from the community in Cortez.

“We were a team because they were opposing it (the Cortez Bridge), and we were opposing it,” said Linda Molto, Cortez resident.

Molto said she spent many weekends on the bridge with SAM members. And when she wasn’t demonstrating roadside, Molto was working with Mary Fulford Green to get Cortez on The National Register of Historic Places. Funded by the state of Florida, Green and Molto worked with city planners to earn the historic designation through the Waterfronts Florida Partnership Program in 1999.

The process took three years and resulted in a comprehensive plan that acts as a guide for the future of the village.

“We decided what we wanted Cortez to look like in 100 years, and it’s how it looks now,” said Molto.

While Cortezians were trying to preserve the fishing village and SAM members took to the courts, Sarasota County held hearings for what would become the Ringling Causeway Bridge — a 65-foot, fixed-span bridge. That DOT project met with some resistance but moved forward and, over the years, Sarasota’s skyline grew into its tall bridge.

For residents who have opposed the bridge proposals in Manatee County, the variables are different.

“We’re two low-rise communities,” Molto said of Cortez and Bradenton Beach.

Cortez and Bradenton Beach have height restrictions of two-stories in Cortez and three-stories in Bradenton Beach above FEMA regulations. A 65-foot bridge would tower above other structures at that time on both sides of the waterway.

“One only has to go see the Ringling Bridge under construction and realize the awesome concrete structure is not what anyone wants,” Katie Pierola wrote in a 2002, then SAM president and a Bradenton Beach resident.

By 2002, instead of replacement, the DOT repaired the Anna Maria Island Bridge. The repair work, completed in 2008, closed the bridge for 45 days, down from the planned 75-day closure. But as the repairs were being completed, public notices went out on another DOT proposal to replace the Anna Maria Island Bridge with a 65-foot, fixed-span bridge.

Manatee County commissioners approved the proposal.

“DOT learned what they needed to do without getting caught in a trap,” said Deal.

The government agency held public meetings and addressed environmental concerns raised the first time around. Community resistance had lessened. SAM membership numbers had dwindled by the late 2000s.

“We didn’t have the resources. We didn’t have the people,” said Deal. “People were less concerned about quality of life and more concerned with getting traffic here as quickly as possible.”

By 2006, SAM primarily held workshops and speaker series in place of its on-the-streets, at-the-polls activism of its early days. It dissolved in October 2017.

Many original members of the group have since died or moved away.

Deal, who stayed a SAM member until its dissolution, sat on the DOT sponsored aesthetics committee last year for the 65-foot Anna Maria Island Bridge SAM fought against.

“I wanted to honor those who had founded SAM,” she said.

She knew the fight was over, but wanted an input to ensure safety and appropriate use of taxpayer dollars, she said.

“We aren’t Rome. This is as old as we can get,” Deal said. “But there are things we can do to preserve our island.”

To be continued….

Anna Maria opts for do-over on pier demolition bids

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The Anna Maria City Pier — damaged by Hurricane Irma in September 2017 — remains closed May 14, its restaurant windows boarded up. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

The price to demo the Anna Maria City Pier came in high. Too high.

Anna Maria officials elected May 18 to reissue a request for proposals for demolition of the pier.

During an emergency meeting, Mayor Dan Murphy asked commissioners to reject the submitted bids for the demolition contract and reissue a request for proposals, with a deadline of Friday, May 25.

The first request for proposals was issued April 24 with a deadline of May 11 for permitting, demolition, cleanup, restoration, proper disposal and closeout of the demolition site.

The RFP stipulated the project should be completed within 120 days, with a $500 penalty for every day beyond the deadline.

The city received bids from Sully’s Quality Projects and UnderConstruction Contractors, both Venice-based firms, and Speeler & Associates, based in St. Petersburg.

The grading chart Murphy developed for the RFP put Speeler as the No. 1 bid, followed by Sully’s and UnderConstruction.

However, Murphy said the bids from Sully’s and Speeler were too high for the city budget. Sully’s bid was $780,730 and Speeler’s was $853,000.

The bid from UnderConstruction came in significantly lower, at $289,000.

The overall pier project — including construction — is estimated on the high end at $4.5 million. Murphy told commissioners that in constructing a budget for the demolition phase, he was advised the cost could range $300,000-$500,000.

UnderConstruction is below the guestimate, but Murphy cautioned commissioners that UnderConstruction lacks experience for such a project.

Two more companies sent bids, Murphy said, but they arrived late and were returned unopened.

Seven contractors attended an April 27 conference for the RFP, Murphy said, but two local companies did not bid.

Commissioners voted 4-1 to authorize Murphy to reissue the RFP with a revised grading scale that emphasizes project cost and minimizes the need for a local contractor.

Commissioner Dale Woodland voted against the decision to reissue an RFP. He said he was opposed to the entire project and felt the city had insufficient dialogue with residents before pursuing construction of a new pier that could last for 100 years.

Murphy said he would invite the five companies that sent bids to reapply, as well as any other interested companies.

He also said the city would update the pier timeline to anticipate the demolition process by Aug. 30.

The new pier — not including a restaurant, bait shop and facilities — is expected to be completed by December 2019.

The engraved city pier planks will be removed in early June and distributed later in the month, weather permitting, to some 200 people who requested their planks before the city’s Jan. 26 deadline.

Any remaining planks will be used to construct memorial fences in City Pier Park, at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard, and at the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum, 402 Pine Ave.

Barrier island traffic study solutions: paid parking, wayfinder

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Looking east in March, cars maneuver Manatee Avenue in Holmes Beach, where parking demands at the Manatee Public Beach push beachgoers to park on the right of way on the south side of the road. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

The 5,071 parking spaces on Anna Maria Island fill up fast during holidays and prime beach days.

More than 1,000 more parking spaces are needed to address the imbalance, according to a recent consultant’s report.

Instituting paid parking and installing a wayfinder system could help solve the problem, according to a 72-page analysis and recommendations from Walker Consultants of Tampa Bay.

Parking so far is one of the least-discussed aspects of the $675,000 barrier island traffic study undertaken by the Florida Department of Transportation, which now includes the Walker report.

Bessie Reina, DOT project manager for BITS, said parking will be discussed during an update at a June 8 meeting in Holmes Beach.

“As we move into phase III, the recommendation list will be further refined,” Reina said.

The study is supposed to identify traffic problems and solutions involving vehicles, parking, bicycles and pedestrians on the barrier islands from Anna Maria to Lido Key.

Walker’s recommendations were similar for Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach, Coquina Beach and Holmes Beach: Develop a wayfinding system to provide island-bound motorists with parking options.

To subsidize the cost of installing and maintaining a wayfinding system, remote parking inventory and parking lease agreements, Walker suggested the island cities charge a fee for public parking.

“The policy of charging a fee for public parking access will not only help fund the ongoing operations of these recommendations but, more importantly, will help establish a pricepoint,” according to the report.

Walker’s Anna Maria analysis projects a peak parking demand of 1,138 spaces at 2 p.m. on a March weekend compared with a typical demand of 892 spaces around 6 p.m. in the same March time frame.

“We recommend the city engage in discussion with Gloria Dei Lutheran Church for the lease of their 60 parking spaces during non-worship activity for the community to meet the overall demand needs during this peak hour,” according to the report.

Gloria Dei, 6608 Marina Drive, has declined in the past to lease parking spaces, saying it could complicate selling any of its property, but Walker advised persistence in its report.

Other churches also resisted attempts in the past by Holmes Beach officials to “borrow” parking for beachgoers.

“Otherwise, we can anticipate a shortfall of a similar amount equal to the church parking inventory,” according to the report.

Holmes Beach parking demand in the daytime typically peaks at 2,014 spaces by noon on a March weekend compared with a typical evening parking demand of 1,649 spaces at 6 p.m. in the same month.

“We recommend the city engage in discussion with the neighborhood worship centers for the lease of their cumulative 510 parking spaces during non-worship activity in order for the community to meet the overall demand needs during this peak hour,” according to the report. “Otherwise, we can anticipate a projected shortfall of 327 spaces.”

Walker’s Bradenton Beach analysis projects a typical peak parking demand of 986 spaces around 6 p.m. on a weekend in March, which equates to a parking deficit of 340 spaces.

Walker said remote parking locations should be explored in Bradenton Beach through public/private partnerships with landowners along Cortez Road.

His Coquina Beach and Coquina Bayside South boat ramp parking inventory of 933 spaces leaves a parking deficit of 248 spaces during peak demand times in March.

The study recommends charging to park, establishing wayfinder and promoting off-island transit services.

Funding will be identified if any DOT recommendations are adopted as priority items by the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, which was created in the 1950s to provide a local voice for the state on transportation issues.

The study can be reviewed online at swflroads.com/sarasotamanateebarrier islands/. The site shows statistics on vehicle-turning movement, parking, pedestrian activity,

land use, multimodal options, transit service and ridership and bottleneck locations.

The DOT will update BITS at 9:30 a.m. Friday, June 8, at CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

Cooler temps set sea turtles off to slow start

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A sea turtle nest is spotted early May 18 with a note in the sand in Holmes Beach before AMITW volunteers arrived. Seaweed indicates the “nest.” AMITW executive director Suzi Fox asks that people leave nests and the surrounding area undisturbed. Islander Courtesy Photo: AMITW
Barbara Riskay, new AMITW volunteer, left, is congratulated May 16 by AMITW coordinator Anne Camp on her first loggerhead nest. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
Lisa Weiss, a new volunteer walker for AMITW, stands May 16 next to a false crawl she spotted on the beach near the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria. “I was so excited to spot my first crawl,” Weiss said. “I’m just waiting for a nest now.” Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW

Timing is everything.

Loggerheads have begun their nesting cycle on Anna Maria Island, but they appear to be off to a slow start.

The first sea turtle nest of the season, which runs May-October, was documented May 12 on Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.

As of May 21, 17 nests and 38 false crawls were identified by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch.

By the same date in 2017, 26 nests and 36 false crawls were recorded.

“False crawls are up all over the island, not just one spot,” AMITW executive director Suzi Fox said May 16. “And a lot of quick ins-and-outs, which implies the turtle is not ready to nest.”

She said the abundance of nesting attempts could be caused by cooler-than-usual temperatures leading to cooler sand. The turtles use their instincts to determine if the sand is warm enough to incubate the eggs they leave behind.

A false crawl occurs when a sea turtle emerges from the water and crawls onto the beach but abandons the nesting attempt and returns to the Gulf of Mexico. False crawls can be caused by impediments in the turtle’s path as it crawls up the beach, including chairs, canopies and deep holes.

Other times, the answer is not clear.

Last year, AMITW had a record-breaking season. By the end of October 2017, more nests — 483 loggerheads and five green sea turtles — were discovered on island beaches than any previous year.

However, people should remember the success is due largely in-part to their behavior on nesting beaches, Fox said.

Fox said if people see nesting turtles, they should observe from afar. Any interruptions could lead to a false crawl.

Additionally, she said some people have “marked” nests by doing such things as drawing a circle in the sand around a nest, or leaving notes written in seaweed nearby for the walkers to find the next day.

She said while she understands people are trying to help, walkers are trained to spot nests and the tracks left by nesting turtles provide valuable data.

“I know they are trying to help, but by drawing notes in the sand and such, they are destroying the tracks that we need as our primary data,” Fox said. “Just let them be and we will find the nests the next morning.”

Fox said people are doing great with turtle-friendly beachfront lighting, but there have been some problems with people in condominiums in Bradenton Beach leaving beach chairs out overnight.

Sea turtles only leave the water to nest, so any obstructions on the beach can lead to a false crawl or worse — in 2016 a sea turtle nested under a beach chair then dragged it on its back into the water. The chair could have caused the turtle to drown.

According to sea turtle regulations in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach, beach furniture, including chairs and canopies, must be removed by the end of the day. Furniture left on the beach overnight will be tagged and stored by city code enforcement officers, and violators may be required to pay a fine to retrieve items.

Fox said the combined efforts of city code enforcement, turtle watch volunteers and the residents and visitors on the island contribute to clean, dark beaches, which means more nests.

“Overall, the beaches are looking great — just a few hiccups to take care of,” Fox said. “When the time is right, our west coast girls will be back in force.”

For more information on nesting season, contact Fox at suzifox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

Visit myfwc.com/seaturtle and click on “Sea Turtles and Lights” or “Wildlife Friendly Lighting” for more information on keeping beaches safe for sea turtles.

To report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles or shorebirds contact the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

Palmetto man charged with assault for police threat

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Douglas Schofield, 45

An aggravated assault charge was filed against a Palmetto man who threatened police with survivalist-style weapons in December 2017 in Anna Maria.

Douglas Schofield, 45, was charged May 7 by the State Attorney of the 12th Judicial Circuit. He was served with the court paper a week later.

Schofield was shot in the stomach Dec. 30, 2017, by Bradenton Beach Police Officer Eric Hill in a parking lot at Gulf Drive and Pine Avenue after he held out a knife and a hatchet and shouted to police, asking if they wanted to die. Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy Amy Leach simultaneously shot Schofield with a stun gun.

Pings to Schofield’s cellphone led authorities to search Anna Maria, according to a police report.

Police say his relatives, including MCSO Deputy Tim Eason, told authorities Schofield was trying to kill himself, and Eason helped Hill and Leach identify Schofield’s vehicle in the parking lot at 10101 Gulf Drive.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer and HBPD Officer Christine LaBranche assisted in the search and arrived on scene.

After Schofield was shot, he was taken to Blake Medical Center in Bradenton. He underwent surgery and has recovered, according to police.

Schofield, a former U.S. marine with post-traumatic stress disorder, is going through a divorce, according to police reports.

A Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation cleared Hill of wrongdoing in the officer-involved shooting.

After being served with the aggravated assault charge, Schofield was transported and booked at the Manatee County jail.

He posted a $25,000 bond and was released.

Schofield’s arraignment is set for Friday, June 8, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

BBPD, MCSO arrest burglar, batterer

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Joseph Gaston

Bradenton Beach police arrested a 27-year-old man for stealing a surfboard — an open case since December 2017 — the same day he was arrested for battery to a woman on a boat near Cortez.

Detective Sgt. Lenard Diaz arrested Joseph Gaston May 10 for the burglary and theft in Bradenton Beach. Gaston lives on a boat in Sarasota Bay near Longboat Key, Diaz said.

The detective had been searching for a suspect since a man in the 100 block of Gulf Drive South reported an unknown person entered his garage and stole three surfboards.

As coincidence would have it, at about the same time Diaz connected a pawn of one of the boards to Gaston— collecting evidence at the pawn shop — BBPD Steven Masi officer reported assisting a Manatee County sheriff’s deputy with apprehending a suspect in a battery investigation.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Officer Masi assisted MSCO in bringing Gaston to the 12500 block of Cortez Road West, where Diaz arrested him for the theft.

Gaston also is accused of pulling a woman by her feet from a boat at Annie’s Bait & Tackle, 4334 127th St. W., and then shoving her in the boat while it was tied to a dock near the Coast Guard station in Cortez, according to MCSO reports.

After BBPD gave Gaston his Miranda warnings, Gaston admitted to the surfboard theft and pawn, according to a police report.

Diaz suggested the burglary as well as theft charges to the state attorney’s office, which makes the charging decision.

As far as the two other surfboards, Diaz said one was found and another is missing. The recovered surfboards have been returned to the owner.

Gaston was transported to Manatee County jail and assigned a $2,000 bond on the battery and $9,000 for the burglary and theft. Gaston posted bond and was released.

Gaston’s arraignment on the BBPD case is set for 9 a.m. Friday, June 8, and an appearance on the MCSO charge is set for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 12.

Court proceedings are held at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

WMFR moves forward on 2-year assessment increases

Property owners in the West Manatee Fire District likely will see their assessments rise 2 percent in the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

WMFR commissioners voted 3-2 May 15 to approve a proposed 2 percent assessment increase as part of a plan to raise rates 2 percent over each of the next two years.

The commission voted down an option to keep the rate flat for the 2018-19 fiscal year and then raise it 4 percent in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Commissioners can vote to lower, but not increase, the rate before passing the final budget in September.

A final public hearing and vote on WMFR’s 2018-19 fiscal year budget will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18.

Commissioners Al Robinson and George Harris voted against the two-year 2 percent hike.

Chief Tom Sousa told commissioners the rate hike is necessary to meet operating costs, which are rising 3 percent annually.

Harris disagreed with collecting more money from property owners than the district needs. “If we don’t need this money this year, I don’t agree with collecting,” he said.

Robinson suggested the district rely on its reserve fund. “We don’t need to stuff more in our coffee can. If we have to take some (money) out, so be it.”

However, Commissioner David Bishop cautioned against underestimating the district’s financial needs.

Bishop said during discussions on assessment rates for 2016-17, he opposed raising rates on the basis that the district was likely to get a number of grants, but was outvoted.

The grants didn’t come through, and Bishop said he learned a lesson in assuming funds would be available when needed.

Bishop said property owners will likely be OK with the rate in exchange for WMFR services. “I’ve yet to hear from anyone that the assessment is too high,” he said. “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Commissioner Randy Cooper also advocated for the two-year, 2 percent increases. He said the district cannot predict how much operating costs go up.

With a maximum annual rate hike of 4 percent set by the state, Cooper expressed concern the budget may be tight if the district waits and is limited by the state in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Commissioners will next meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 19, at the WMFR administrative building, 6417 Third Ave. W., Bradenton.

Eyes on the road

The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following notices for the week of May 21:

• Avenue C: Manatee County crews are replacing force mains. Installation of a 6-inch water main is underway along Avenue C from 24th to 26th streets north. Crews are installing water services across Avenue C. Intermediate road closures will take place. The route from Avenue C southbound onto Gulf Drive is temporarily closed. The roadway is open northbound to local traffic and emergency vehicles from Gulf Drive to 22nd Street North.

• Gulf Drive, between Avenue C and Cortez Road: Continuing through June 29, directional drilling and open-cut installation of a force main is underway. Traffic will be shifted to the west to allow for construction activities. For more information about the project, go online to amipipereplacement.com.

• SR 64/Manatee Avenue on Perico Island from Martinique Drive to 107th Court West: Crews are improving drainage, constructing sidewalk and bicycle lanes and installing new signage and pavement markings. Work occurs off the roadway and does not require lane closures. Florida Safety Contractors Inc. is the contractor.

Expected completion is fall 2018.

For the latest road watch information, go online to www.fl511.com or dial 511.