When Hurricane Hermine brought heavy rain in September, the ditches in Rubonia flooded, illustrating the neighborhood’s poor drainage.
Residents in Rubonia, which is tucked off U.S. 41 between Palmetto and Interstate 275, have been asking for sidewalks, improved drainage and other improvements for years. Rubonia hits the top of Manatee County’s 2017 state Legislative priority list, as the county is seeking $2.8 million in state funding for stormwater and drainage improvements to alleviate the flooding conditions.
“The ditches and the sidewalks, that was the No. 1 priority,” said Morris Goff, with the Rubonia Community Association. “I’m glad that it is going on because they already have it mapped out.”
The Rubonia funding request is among a series of items on the county’s 2017 Legislative Platform, which also includes a funding request for the renovations of the 1914 Myakka Schoolhouse and support of the replacement of the DeSoto Bridge. During Tuesday’s Manatee County Legislative Delegation meeting, the county will present its platform along with other entities including the school district and local colleges.
Rubonia residents should be happy about the prospect of these improvements, Goff said.
“This is something they’ve been asking for for a long time,” he said. “This is the thing that is needed because our children are having to walk in the middle of the street to get to and from. That sidewalk is a must.”
If the drainage improvements are made, then the county can put in sidewalks as well, county spokesman Nick Azzara said.
“I think the board and staff want to make it clear to the community that we are sincere about helping,” he said. “We’ve been successful in years past. There’s a dedicated funding pot for water projects. We are putting forward the Rubonia improvements as eligible in that category. We are hoping to be successful there.”
When Rubonia was designed and constructed in 1913, there wasn’t the level of regulation that there is today in regard to roadways and drainage, according to the Rubonia Subdivision Drainage and Roadway Improvements plan prepared by the county’s public works department in October. The state didn’t require drainage regulations until the 1970s.
“The existing roadway system and its over 100-year-old antiquated drainage design are prone to routine flooding,” the plan states.
While the total project is estimated to cost $3.1 million, proposed improvements would add curbs, gutters and storm drain piping to alleviate the routine flooding conditions, according to the county’s Legislative priority list.
“The community has been there for many, many years and it was built before all the new methods of infrastructure and they do have some drainage issues that they have been telling us,” said Debbie Deleon, with the county’s neighborhood services department. “The county is really interested in them as a neighborhood. We are trying to find as many avenues as we can to get this project to come about.”
A Rubonia Neighborhood Action Plan, which is being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, could be another avenue for funding improvements. The action plan determined that Rubonia meets the state’s definition of a blighted area, which could make the neighborhood eligible for federal Community Development Block Grants.
Rubonia had been deemed ineligible for the funds after residents’ lack of response to the 2010 census, as well as increased development of mobile home parks around the area.
“We are trying all avenues, all tools in the toolbox to get what they need — what they have requested for many years,” Deleon said. “It shows the intent of the board to resolve their neighborhood issues.”
Lifelong Rubonia resident Charles Miller Sr. said it made him “feel real good” when he heard about the possibility of the drainage improvements.
“That’s what we have been asking the commissioners for,” he said. “We need the drainage. We want to pipe the ditches. That’s one of the things that now we really need.”
All of Rubonia needs the drainage improvements, Miller said.
“The mosquitoes, they will eat us alive,” he said. “That’s the main thing — to cover the ditches.”
Manatee County’s 2017 State Legislative Priority List
- $2.8 million to construct stormwater and drainage improvements in Rubonia.
- $246,319 from the Florida Division of Historic Resources for renovations of the 1914 Myakka Schoolhouse.
- Supports the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization’s and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority’s funding request to replace the DeSoto Bridge.
- Supports opioid funding.
- Seeks legislation to allow Manatee County to use a portion of the Tourist Development Tax for public safety services.
- Supports maintaining a countywide regulatory system for EMS through the current Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity process.
- Requests the Florida Legislature to consider the effect of any modifications to the workers’ compensation system on local governments.
- Supports measures to empower local governments and provide resources for economic development.
- Supports legislation that would create a waiver for out-of-state licensed physicians to provide temporary healthcare services during the Remote Area Medical event.
If you go: Manatee County Legislative Delegation meeting
- 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
- Manatee County Commission Chambers, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.
- Manatee delegation members are Sen. Bill Galvano, Rep. Jim Boyd, Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton and Rep. Joe Gruters.