BRADENTON -- The Bradenton Downtown Development Authority and the three city community redevelopment agencies are locked into 2015-16 budgets with few expendable revenues, which could change in the next budget cycle with an expiring $1.3 million annual interlocal agreement with Manatee County freeing up money sooner than expected.
That possibility has put pressure on Bradenton City Council to move the transition along. The council assumed control Jan. 1 of the three city CRAs.
The council held a couple workshops on the transition but little progress has been made until recently with a scheduled Wednesday meeting -- the council's first as the CRA board. The council is expected to establish the Central Community Redevelopment Agency Board as an advisory body, but it's unclear whether the DDA will continue as an advisory board of the Bradenton and 14th Street West CRAs, which it has long overseen.
The DDA entered into the interlocal agreement several years ago when the county wanted to move its administration building out of downtown Bradenton. The DDA agreed to pay the county its share of parking revenues through 2017 to keep county employees downtown. When the agreement expires this year, the $1.3 million would begin to fill the DDA coffers by 2017.
However, according to Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith, the money may be available in the next budget cycle.
The city is implementing a new economic development department as a coordinating agency between the city, DDA, CRAs and the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp., as well as Manatee County. City Clerk Carl Callahan is acting economic development director during the transition.
DDA board member Mike Carter said the DDA is essentially on autopilot until the next budget cycle when the council will determine how much funding it will receive for downtown projects.
"We should be working on that plan right now to know what's the menu of things that will make a future impact," Carter said. "Someone needs to be doing that."
Realize Bradenton Executive Director Johnette Isham said an initial framework is needed to create a strategy of economic development in the same way the citizen-driven process was done in the Village of the Arts.
"A framework would make it clear for elected officials, staff and appointed boards of how the bigger picture extends to the neighborhoods," she said. "If the framework is first identified, then you find where roles and responsibilities fit within that framework."
Vernon DeSear, board chairman, summed up the DDA point of view.
"What you are hearing from us is, I don't think anyone of us felt like our opinion was the final opinion," he said. "We always felt like you had eight devoted people to see this city be all it can be. I don't feel like that has changed. You can tell that everyone here is engaged and wants success in our community."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.