Bradenton vice mayor blasts FHP holiday weekend checkpoint

myoung@bradenton.comMay 29, 2014 

BRADENTON -- City officials Wednesday sharply criticized the Florida Highway Patrol decision to conduct a driver's license checkpoint on Palma Sola Causeway over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Bradenton Vice Mayor Bemis Smith said the Saturday checkpoint caused a massive traffic delay for motorists heading to Anna Maria Island. Many were stuck in traffic for 45 minutes or longer beyond the normal heavy traffic flow on a holiday weekend, he said.

"I would encourage them to use common sense when blocking off roads in the city," Smith said Wednesday at the Bradenton City Council meeting. "They did it on the causeway Saturday, and it caused a tremendous amount of issues."

Smith said the timing of the checkpoint was a poor decision resulting in "overzealous policing that had relatively few returns for the amount of effort."

Bradenton Police Chief Mike Radzilowski confirmed

traffic on Manatee Avenue West from the causeway backed up to 34th Avenue West.

"I had never seen that before," said Radzilowski. "The Holmes Beach Police Department said (FHP comes) out every year and creates a nightmare. I can reach out to their major, but it's certainly something the Bradenton Police Department would never do."

Radzilowski said he couldn't explain the rationale behind the decision.

The Herald was unable to contact F Troop Commander Major Carlos Vasquez for comment Wednesday.

In other action, the city council unanimously passed a resolution to allow the police department to apply for a $27,000 grant from the Department of Justice to be used as a down payment on the Shotspotter system, which uses sensors to locate the source of a gunshot within 10 feet.

The system, to be used in high-crime neighborhoods, is expected to cost $270,000 with an annual maintenance fee of $180,000. Radzilowski is seeking the grant to pay initial costs, including partnering with the Bradenton Housing Authority. BHA is pursuing a $250,000 Department Housing and Urban Affairs grant geared toward improving safety in HUD communities.

The public has until June 9 to submit comment to the city before the resolution triggers the grant application.

Radzilowski has not identified the 3-square mile radius of Bradenton he intends to target with the system, but it is an area where most gunshots occurred last year in HUD housing, he said.

The final reading of a new ordinance regarding grease traps was also unanimously approved. Public Works Director Claude Tankersley said an incident last year, which did not involve a restaurant, showed the city had no way to effectively inspect grease traps to ensure they are up to code and grease isn't seeping into city wastewater lines.

Notices will be sent soon to all city restaurants notifying operators an inspection could take place anytime after a six-month grace period outlined in the ordinance.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.

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