As growth remains the major narrative of Manatee County, Manatee County School District officials are looking ahead to make sure they have enough schools for the growing population.
On Tuesday, Amy Anderson, the facilities, sites and planning manager for the school district, reviewed the annual assessment and overview of the interlocal agreement for public school facility spending at the quarterly Council of Governments meeting held Tuesday afternoon in the Bradenton Area Convention Center.
The agreement dictates how school districts and local governments work together to ensure planning decisions are coordinated, based on data and legal requirements.
With a new high school on the immediate horizon, and two new elementary schools and one new middle school in the pipeline, Anderson’s presentation was particularly relevant to the gathered county officials.
“The community has been requesting the new high school be north of the river,” Anderson said. “The map shows the site is central to residential growth and would provide a focal point.”
Anderson also said the new site met other criteria, including access to water and sewage, which are roughly 1,500 feet away from the site, and not being on a major thoroughfare or a road overburdened with traffic.
At its Jan. 24 meeting, the school board passed a resolution authorizing the sale of $150 million of bonds to fund the construction of the new high school, which is being planned for a 100-acre site on the corner of Martha and Eerie roads in Parrish.
Commissioner Robin DiSabatino raised concerns over the width of Martha Road.
Mark Barnebey, special counsel for the school board, said the school district has limited authority on its own to address the road-width issues.
“We have certain restrictions on what we can participate in. Normally, we do not take care of existing deficiencies. We can make improvements on or contiguous to our site,” Barnebey said. “We can make improvements on areas not on or contiguous only proportionate to the amount of our impact.”
During public comment period, Tami Vaughan, who has addressed the school board on several occasions over the new high school in Parrish, said the surrounding roads were too narrow to accommodate school buses without requiring major funding to widen the lanes.
“Everyone I talked to said we need the high school, which I agree with 110 percent,” Vaughan said. “I think they will agree with me that it won’t work there without spending lots of money.”
Barnebey said the district was doing a traffic study, which will be presented to the county.
Also on Tuesday, the Council of Governments heard a presentation on:
▪ Manatee County’s gate ordinance for emergency gate access. “A few communities have expressed concern that the universal code has become compromised allowing unwanted/unsolicited visitors into their communities,” according to the presentation.
▪ “Home Sweet Home” initiative, which is intended to keep people living on Anna Maria Island. “We are at a tipping point on our history on the island,” said Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen. The tipping point is whether the island is going to be a residential community, a tourist hotspot or a combination, she added.
▪ Water taxi/ferry boat service, which would run between Sarasota Bay and Anna Maria Island with possible extensions into Bradenton and Palmetto. Sherman Baldwin, general manager of Tevatan, LLC/Paradise Boat Tours, said he has a permit submitted to city of Sarasota and if approved, he plans to soon have the service operational. “This is not targeted for tourists. This is targeted for commuters,” Baldwin said.