MANATEE -- After Rubonia residents have been asking for improvements such as sidewalks and improved drainage for years, it's time for Manatee County to put its money where its mouth is, Commissioner Carol Whitmore said Tuesday.
"I'm glad it's on the top of the priorities," Whitmore said. "We need to start putting into action some of the ideas that the citizens have and that we have with minimal costs but with neighborhood buy-in and our buy-in."
Commissioners reaffirmed their position on making Rubonia a priority during Tuesday's commission meeting. Wade Trim consultants updated the commission about the development of a neighborhood action plan, which could determine whether Rubonia meets the state definition of a blighted area.
The plan is a way for Rubonia to become eligible for federal Community Development Block Grant funding.
"The Rubonia neighborhood is a group of very reasonable, very passionate individuals," said Jason Smith, with Wade Trim.
"They are not asking for the world. They are asking for some basic things in their neighborhood to improve their neighborhood."
Residents say Rubonia, off U.S. 41 between Palmetto
and Interstate 275, has long been neglected by the county, with its lack of sidewalks and ditches and a shuttered community center.
Commissioner Larry Bustle, who represents Rubonia, said he thinks they are headed in the right direction.
"I think we are united and want to find some viable projects out there," Bustle said.
Commission Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh said she can understand how people in Rubonia are frustrated.
"I don't blame them," she said. "I can tell you that some of us up here are frustrated. We are bound and determined to get some things done there."
Manatee County needs to be there for Rubonia because "they've earned it many times," Baugh said.
"Rubonia is a priority," she said. "We want to take care of them. They deserve it."
For the second straight year, the annual Rubonia Mardi Gras parade was canceled, which Commissioner Betsy Benac said is concerning. Some commissioners suggested looking into using Tourist Development Council funds for the event.
"I think we should do as a community what we can to help that to happen," Benac said. "I think the Rubonia Mardi Gras is an incredible special event."
Derrick Randall, who has been working to help revitalize Rubonia, attended Tuesday's meeting. Afterward, he sent an email to commissioners and county staff thanking them for the priority placed on Rubonia.
"In reflection and encompassed gratitude, thank you to each of you," Randall said in the email. "Your interjection has been refreshing and reverberating. Adversity is only as strong as its captives. We are a force together."
On Tuesday, the commission also:
Approved an Economic Development Incentive Grant for Project ACTION, which will locate a corporate operations facility in Manatee County. Over five years, Project ACTION is projected to create 79 quality jobs with the company paying a minimum of 150 percent of the 2014 Manatee County average annual wage plus benefits.
Adopted a resolution authorizing Manatee County Area Transit to not collect fares on election days in 2016. The fares will not be collected for fixed route and select ADA paratransit bus rides on March 15, Aug. 30 and Nov. 8.
Appointed David Doyens to serve as the veterinarian member on the county's Animal Services Advisory Board.
Accepted the proposal for a term loan by Bank of America for $36 million in General Government Debt Issuance. The commission will approve the final documents at a later date. The Capital Improvement Program for fiscal years 2016-2020 "anticipates issuance of debt to finance a portion of the General Government projects," according to agenda materials.
Acknowledged the Rye Preserve Nature Center opening and the community partners who worked together to make the nature center happen.
Authorized the execution of joint participation agreements for State Service Development Grant Program Funding to increase the frequency on Manatee County Area Transit Route 3 to 30 minutes. To increase the frequency of the route on Manatee Avenue West, the county would reallocate existing resources.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.