With the 2017 Florida Legislative session underway, Manatee County commissioners reaffirmed their support of needed infrastructure improvements in Rubonia on Tuesday.
While Rubonia hits the top of the county’s 2017 state legislative priority list with a $2.8 million request in state funding for stormwater and drainage improvements to alleviate the flooding conditions, county officials are exploring all funding options.
On March 1, county officials met at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development headquarters in Washington, D.C., to learn about the Section 108 loan program. County staff members delivered an update to commissioners about the trip during Tuesday’s commission meeting.
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“This is a very significant cost to using this funding,” said Geri Lopez, the county’s redevelopment and economic opportunity director. “We are still in the process of evaluating that loan program as well as all the requirements that are needed. My initial sense is that we do need to do more of a cost-benefit analysis.”
But with commissioners traveling to Tallahasee next week to meet with state legislators, county staffers are hoping that the Rubonia state funding request will be something that the commissioners will get a chance to talk about.
“That’s a grant,” said Cheri Coryea, the county’s neighborhood services director. “That’s not a loan. That’s not something that has to be paid back.”
The county has spent a little more than $340,000 in Rubonia within the last couple years.
“There is a lot interest and activity there,” Coryea said. “I think that also shows that the county is serious about working in that area.”
With the Rubonia funding request, it is “going to be a tough, tough sell,” Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac said.
“We are looking for partners,” she said. “We are looking for a partnership. We just got to show we’ve been working really hard. It has to be a partnership because we know money is not grown in trees in Tallahassee.”
The $2.8 million funding request for Rubonia is going to be “very, very difficult” to receive, Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said.
“This is something that needs to be done, so we got to figure out how to do it,” she said.
The Rubonia funding request is among a series of items on the county’s 2017 Legislative Platform, which commissioners will be discussing with legislators in Tallahassee next week.
“We’ve got some very, very serious and important issues that we are looking at,” Baugh said.
During Tuesday’s legislative update agenda item, commissioners agreed they all should attend the meetings in Tallahassee.
“This board right now is not the board it was last year,” Baugh said. “We have issues. We are divided.”