Mayor seeks equal distribution of beach concession funds

John Chappie
Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie expresses his desire for an equal share of the surplus beach concession revenues. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

BRADENTON BEACH – Mayor John Chappie supports the city of Anna Maria’s request to use $333,000 of surplus beach concession revenues for the replacement of the City Pier, but he wants a fair share of the county-controlled funds for his city too.

“I have no problem with the projects the other cities have. Where I’m having some heartburn is the equity in the distribution of the funds,” Chappie said during the City Commission’s Dec. 7 meeting.

Chappie said he recognizes the Island-wide value of the Anna Maria City Pier.

“I don’t have a problem with the City Pier in Anna Maria. Hopefully this commission will support their request, but I’m looking at it as a third, a third and a third so we know where we stand over the next several years,” he said regarding his desire for the county funds to be shared equally by the three Island cities.

County Resolution 14-119 guides the beach concession funding request process and requires a joint letter of support signed by all three mayors even if the project is specific to one city. County Commissioners then decide the fate of each request. The city of Anna Maria has not yet sent a letter to city officials in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach seeking their support for a pier funding request.

Chappie, a former County Commissioner, told his commission that he recently discussed the concession funds with Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson.

“I don’t think they were all that happy about my concern about the distribution of the funds, but I think it’s something we can work out. I want to support their projects and I hope they support our projects,” he said.

Surplus beach concession revenues are generated through the county’s lease agreements with the concessionaires at Manatee Beach in Holmes Beach and Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. Use of the surplus funds can be requested for one-time capital improvements projects that provide a benefit to the entire Island.

According to Jan Brewer, Manatee County’s Director of Financial Management, the beach concession reserve fund had a $1.14 million balance when the 2016-17 fiscal year ended on Sept. 30.

The fund was created with a zero balance in fiscal year 2010 and produced a $76,087 reserve balance in fiscal year 2011. The reserve fund grew to $601,995 in fiscal year 2014. In 2016-17, the fund experienced its largest annual increase to date, $252,524.

The $130,000 Island-wide Urban Land Institute study in 2015 was the first Island project funded by surplus concession revenues.

Each year, the county maintains a $233,520 base fund to cover its annual anticipated needs. In past years, the county has used additional concession revenues to fund holiday trash pickup, restroom cleaning services and overtime and extended working hours for beach custodians. What remains after the base amount and any additional county expenditures is potentially available to the three cities, but the county is not obligated to share the concession revenues produced on the Island.

Wish lists

Earlier this year, the three city commissions created project wish lists. The Bradenton Beach Commission’s first choice was to work with the other cities on an Island-wide bike path. Additional trolley shelters, a trolley pull-off lane and bike racks and other amenities for Gulf-side street ends made the commission’s city-specific list.

Unrelated to that list, county commissioners approved Bradenton Beach’s request for the county to spend up to $15,000 to install county-maintained exercise equipment along the Coquina Beach trail. Chappie told the commission the project has encountered delays due to costs being higher than originally anticipated.

Before the need arose for pier replacement funds, Anna Maria’s original $606,000 wish list included a bike path, park improvements, a water taxi feasibility study and a kayak launch. The Holmes Beach list included Grassy Point land acquisitions, a wetlands kayak launch area, skateboard park upgrades and Spring Lake Park improvements. Potential Island-wide projects included land acquisitions for open space preservation; bike trail maps and markings; bike racks and trolley service improvements.

None of these wish list items has been presented to the county as a formal funding request.