Mannix About Manatee: Show some gratitude Palmetto

February 10, 2013 

Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

Did anyone on the Palmetto City Commission ever hear that adage?

Apparently not.

Last Monday when that august body finally agreed to the interlocal agreement permitting Manatee County to finally begin building the city its way overdue Little League ballfields, one would think they'd have shown some gratitude.

After all, the county is going to spend $3.3 million of our tax dollars to do what Palmetto has been unable to do on its own.

Instead, the city commission grudgingly signed off on the deal, kvetching about the arrangement and making it sound like they were being most unfairly.

"Our feet are being held to the fire to get these ballparks done," Commissioner Brian Williams said.

Good.

It's about time.

The city has spun its wheels long enough on this nettlesome issue.

Five years after North American Little League's ballpark on 10th Street was sold to accommodate Palmetto's new elementary school, the city's youngsters still do not have a ballfield of their own.

All they've got are two outdated adult softball fields at Blackstone Park.

If it wasn't for Manatee County stepping up to the plate and taking the lead with plans for adding a three-field complex to Blackstone, there might not be any new Little League ballfields in Palmetto's future.

The county plans to begin construction this summer and -- barring unforeseen delays -- the ballpark is expected to be ready for fall 2014.

Palmetto has to pick up some of the tab, of course, which is partly why commissioners were griping.

Imagine that.

To wit:

n The city had to sign over the $800,000 remaining from the sale of the original ballfields.

n In addition, the city has to fork over $22,000 from the sale of other property to the Manatee County School District.

n The city will also have to buy insurance and compensate the county for any damage when its teams begin play there.

Another bone of contention in the interlocal agreement was the county saying that if the promised ballfields are not completed by Jan. 1, 2015, Palmetto gets an $800,000 refund.

"They can't guarantee it will be done in time, they can't guarantee they'll have the funds, but we have to guarantee money," Commissioner Tamara Varnadore said.

It's the cost of doing business to get Palmetto its ballfields once and for all.

Deal with it.

This is going to get done.

It must get done.

Failure is not an option.

The county stuck its neck out when it didn't have to in order to get this project to first base.

Too much political capital has been committed here for the right reason:

Children.

The renamed Palmetto Little League will get its new home at long last.

I can already see the lineup of politicians, jostling for position to share credit at the dedication ceremony.

Perhaps then Manatee County will get a thank-you.

You're welcome, Palmetto.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Call Vin at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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