RUBONIA — On his way to a meeting Monday to discuss community problems, Florida Rep. Darryl Rouson stopped by the corner store.
Dressed in a business suit and tie, he said he had no problem purchasing a crack pipe. Then he went outside and witnessed a drug deal.
“We need to shut that store down,” Rouson, a Democrat, told the more than 70 people who crowded into the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.
“You have the right to demand it.”
Residents of the predominately black community gathered in the tiny sanctuary to demand not only an end to the crime and drugs, but for county officials to take care of problems that they said have been neglected for too long.
Rouson’s purchase demonstrated the conditions the people of this small north Manatee neighborhood of small, well-kept homes have been exposed to because of the county’s failure to respond to their needs, many residents said.
“It’s sad that you have to be a squeaky wheel to get things done,” said Yolanda Brooks, one of the organizers of the community meeting. “I don’t know why we’ve been ignored, because this is basic stuff.”
The community also sought relief from the flooding they experience during heavy storms and talked about the condition of roads and sidewalks.
Rouson, who had a previous appointment, only stayed long enough to address the meeting, but county Commissioner Larry Bustle, whose district includes Rubonia, and several county department officials listened to the residents’ concerns.
Bustle first apologized for not having someone from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at the meeting to address the situation raised by Rouson, but said he would discuss the problem with Sheriff Brad Steube.
On the other issues, the commissioner said he came to listen to the people speak, take notes and return with answers to their questions.
And questions there were.
Much of the meeting was taken up by residents telling county staff about specific problems, such as the flooding and condition of the streets, and offering solutions.
Cheri Coryea, director of the county neighborhood services department, said it was important for the community to organize.
“It shows the community working together,” Coryea said.
“Also with a formal organization your community becomes eligible for other funds.”
Meeting moderator, Charles Miller, who helped to get the group started, said this was just the beginning for the community.
“The county is going to hear us,” he said. “We’re going to be here until the end.”