Commissioners vote to financially support Center

Holmes Beach Center funding
Commissioner Judy Titsworth agrees with Commissioner Rick Hurst on providing some financial funding to The Center of Anna Maria Island. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – After more than a year of tension between the city and The Center of Anna Maria Island, commissioners have agreed to give the nonprofit a little financial support.

At the urging of Commissioner Rick Hurst, a volunteer at the Center who also serves as the commission’s liaison to the nonprofit, city leaders agreed to revisit the idea of donating funds this fiscal year to the organization. In a 3-1 vote, with Commissioner Jim Kihm absent and Commissioner Carol Soustek dissenting, city leaders agreed to provide $22,500 to the nonprofit. Though the donation passed the vote, commissioners still had some reservations about the Center’s accounting practices and leadership.

“I think we’ve punished them enough for what happened four or five years ago,” Hurst said. “I think we need the Center. It makes us a better place.”

Soustek said she’s still concerned about the Center’s accounting practices, particularly that the organization’s board reported $100,000 in unbudgeted capital expenditures without pulling the nonprofit’s finances into the red.

“It’s a troubling thing when you can cover expenditures like that but still need money,” she said.

Soustek went on to say that she’d like to see audited financial figures and have more of an explanation about where funds are being used.

“I’m not just going to hand out money,” she said. “I want to know what you’re going to do with it.” She added that the three Island city commissions have already voted to donate $100,000 for capital expenses to the Center from the concession fund. The donation requires Manatee County commissioners to vote to release the funds.

Mayor Bob Johnson said he’s seen progress at the Center financially and in management, but he feels there’s more forward movement to be made. With little direct communication from the Center, he said more discussions between city and Center leadership are needed.

“I think the story is better, but I’d like to hear the damn story,” he said. “I’m looking for a face-to-face discussion.”

In response to commission concerns, the Center’s board chair, David Zaccagnino, and new Executive Director Chris Culhane met with Johnson in the days following the May 8 commission meeting. The two offered to meet privately with any city leaders who have concerns about the Center’s management and financial practices. Zaccagnino said the meeting with Johnson was a positive experience.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth agreed with Hurst, saying it was time to let bygones be bygones.

“I’m done saying ‘no’, ” she said. “I’m done saying ‘prove it.’ It’s time to move on.”

With the city now offering financial support to the Center, Titsworth said she hopes it encourages more community confidence in the nonprofit.