Commissioners consider concession fund projects

holmes beach manatee concession
Excess funds from sales at the concession stand at the Manatee Public Beach can be used to fund Island projects. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners made a few changes to the list of projects approved by commissioners in Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach requesting use of surplus concession funds from the county.

Surplus concession funds are held by Manatee County and controlled by the county board of commissioners. However, the funds can be made available to the Island cities for one-time projects if commissioners from all three cities agree on the project and the project is something that will benefit the whole Island.

While commissioners from Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach have already created and approved their lists and a tentative list of projects for funding in Holmes Beach, commissioners in that city got a first look at the list during a March 1 work session.

“This is a wish list,” Commissioner Carol Soustek said. “It’s not guaranteed money. The county has a right to turn us down for any reason.”

City Engineer Lynn Burnett, who helped Mayor Bob Johnson create the city’s portion of the list, said it was a way to stretch the city’s dollars while supporting projects already in this year’s budget if a monetary match is required. Some of the items on the list include sidewalk installation and repairs, bike and pedestrian path improvements, repairs to the city’s skate and dog parks, and a kayak launch at Grassy Point Preserve.

All in all, the city’s total request was for $292,290 of a total of $923,520 being requested.

Another request posed by Bradenton Beach to help fund The Center of Anna Maria Island to assist with structural repairs and maintenance amounts to $100,000 with each city being asked to petition the county for a third of that amount.

At the end of 2017, the surplus concession funds account has $1,144,307 in it. Commissioner Judy Titsworth estimates the balance grows by about $200,000 each year.

“There’s no advantage to saving this money,” Commissioner Rick Hurst said. “If the county approves everything on the list plus the Center, we’ll still have some money leftover with funds added in 2018.”

Burnett said if each city commission agreed to fund the Center’s capital projects through the concession funds and the county agreed, it would be a way to help the nonprofit financially without affecting each city’s own funds.

Commissioner Jim Kihm expressed some concern about using the funds for the Center. He said he’d like to have something on the list to help supplement the $10,000 a year the Holmes Beach Police Department receives for policing the county beach. Commissioners voted 3 to 2, with Kihm and Soustek dissenting, to support adding funding for the Center to the list.

While commissioners were in favor of asking for funding for the HBPD, Titsworth said it should be for a project, not for an ongoing expense like patrolling the beach. For that, she said commissioners need to be more resolute in their discussions with county commissioners about increasing the amount paid to the department for policing the public beach.

For a project, Chief Bill Tokajer suggested the installation and set up of a license plate recognition camera system like that on Longboat Key. The system would monitor vehicles going on and off the Island and share it with local law enforcement. Cameras would be placed at each of the three entry points to the Island.

Commissioners agreed to add a $50,000 line item for the HBPD to cover preliminary work on the acquisition and setup of the camera system, bringing the total requested up to $1,073,520 combined from the three cities.

If the other two cities agree to the addition of funds for the police department, the list of requests will move forward to seek approval from county commissioners.