PALMETTO -- Palmetto officials re-committed their support to the Feb. 6-7 Formula 2 powerboat racing regatta on the Manatee River, with land events taking place in both Palmetto and Bradenton, despite a late recommendation from the Florida Department of Transportation to close the Green Bridge for an entire day.
Officials begrudgingly signed off on a permit to allow closing just the northbound lanes for spectator viewing, but FDOT cited safety concerns in making its recommendation. The city balked at any further support until assurances were given that at least one lane would remain open for emergency vehicle access.
FDOT Operations Engineer Albert Rosenstein said all of the city's concerns will be addressed, including detours, traffic flow and emergency vehicle access.
"A lot of smart people are going to take a look at this proposal and make the appropriate comments to make sure they move traffic safely," said Rosenstein.
Bradenton Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Dave Gustafson said Bradenton and Palmetto police departments have worked to create an incident action plan and similar plans will be created for emergency services and fire.
"There is an extremely in-depth review happening for this event," said Gustafson. "No stone will be left unturned."
While there is still work to do in modifying the FDOT permit, Palmetto officials voted unanimously Monday to accept the regatta
Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant's primary concern was the estimated $7,300 cost to the city for using police officers and public works employees. Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said his police department was going to absorb the added costs through its budget.
"We see it as a city event," said Poston. "It's an event that's going to grow and will benefit everyone. We feel it's an economic tool so we need to have some skin in the game."
Bryant said Bradenton's budget was large enough to accommodate a cost like that. International Strategic Marketing President Mike Fetchko, event organizer, said he budgeted $5,000 for the two cities to split to help with additional costs. Poston offered Palmetto its half. Combined with the promise to receive a percentage of food vendor sales, it was enough for Bryant to be convinced.
Gustafson also said the U.S. Coast Guard environmental permit should be finalized within 45 days. Brett Solomon, an environmental scientist, said the marine mammal and sea turtle watch plans include expert wildlife observers from the Green Bridge, the water and a manatee expert in a helicopter. Should any protected wildlife be spotted during the race, the event will shut down until the wildlife passes through the racing zone.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.