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Date of Issue: November 16, 2006

County declines invite to annexation

Manatee County commissioners last week declined Holmes Beach's invitation to a voluntary annexation of the area on Manatee Avenue next to the Anna Maria Island Bridge, including Kingfish Boat Ramp.

The issue was added to the board of county commissioners' Nov. 7 meeting agenda and briefly discussed.

By voice vote, the commissioners approved a motion to have the county attorney send a letter to Holmes Beach officials. The letter will state that the board does not support annexation, but will engage in discussions about operations in the area, which includes the Kingfish Boat Ramp.

The idea of annexation developed from discussions about Manatee County's efforts to add rest rooms and parking to the Kingfish Boat Ramp on Manatee Avenue just west of the bridge.

In reviewing Kingfish, officials learned that the boat ramp is not in Holmes Beach. The finding led to questions about the city's authority to police the area and responsibility for the city's entryway.

Rich Bohnenberger, Holmes Beach's new mayor following last week's election, proposed an annexation in a letter to Joe McClash, chairman of the county commission.

McClash introduced the topic at last week's commission meeting.

Referring to the proposed annexation, McClash said, "I have problems with that."

McClash went on to say that county and city officials should have a "dialogue," perhaps after a council of governments meeting.

If the county is to continue operating the boat ramp, McClash and others on the board said it seemed smart not to give up county authority in the area.

Bohnenberger said on Nov. 10 that he hadn't received any formal response from the county regarding annexation. But he had heard from numerous people of the commission decision.

"It really is a public-safety issue that we're concerned about," Bohnenberger said. "At this point in time, I'm not sure what happens next."

Meanwhile, McClash has formally endorsed alternative plans to a county proposal for changes at the Kingfish Boat Ramp.

The Kingfish Wetlands Project, a response from nearby residents to the proposal by the county to expand Kingfish, is an alternative plan that allows for improving the boat ramp while creating a safer, more beautiful environment.

The Holmes Beach Parks and Beautification Committee, meeting at city hall on Nov. 8, discussed the Kingfish proposal with KWP co-chair Molly McCartney, who also reports for The Islander.

McClash, in a letter to McCartney, outlined the county's intentions. "Action Step 1, remove pepper trees; Action Step 2, meet again on-site to refine design; Action Step 3, present to BCC and DOT for approval."

"The design was never intended to be anything but an idea," McCartney told the committee, adding that the work will probably take place over "a period of a year."

The first activity, removing the pepper trees, may begin next month, McCartney said. The county will probably assign jail inmates to the work, which would extend to a cleanup along Manatee Avenue from 75th Street in Bradenton to East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach.

Committee members, expressing some relief that McClash backed the revised boat ramp plans, showed enthusiasm for sprucing up the entry to Holmes Beach, from the ramp to the beach, with a unified theme.

The beautification committee also discussed requirements for dedicating trees, the style and cost of plaques for tree memorials, organizing an upcoming seminar and presenting an outdoor movie on Dec. 2.

The committee is sponsoring a showing of "It's a Wonderful Life" in the field next to city hall.

"We will have a huge cauldron of hot chocolate," said committee chairman Jim Dunne, adding that there would also be chocolate chip cookies for moviegoers.

The committee plans to open the concession at 5:30 p.m. and to start the movie at 6:30 p.m.

"Everyone, one and all, is welcome," Dunne said.

The committee's next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 13.