Latest News

Palmetto CRA board discusses grant mistake

PALMETTO — The Community Redevelopment Agency board Monday heard that a $50,000 Storefront Grant awarded to a company in 2006 was inappropriate.

Jeff Burton, the interim CRA administrator, told the board a compliance audit showed Jupiter Marine International was given the grant even though it was located outside the district boundaries.

“This one is cut and dry,” Burton said, referring to the several items the audit questioned.

Community redevelopment agencies are created to rid an area of slum and blight through revitalization efforts.

In 2008, the city commission took over the duties of the CRA and had an audit performed on past board actions.

City Commissioner Alan Zirkelbach, who served on the previous CRA board before being elected to the city commission in 2008, said he remembers clearly being told the company, at 1101 and 1103 12th St. E., was within the CRA district.

“And they were also doing some off-site work,” Zirkelbach said. “What happened with the maps?”

Burton said the error was with the Manatee County map used, but to verify the mistake he used three crosschecks.

“The map we created was created using the GIS (Geographic Information System) and checking old ordinances (that establish the CRA boundaries),” he said.

The map the CRA board was using and the map on the CRA Web site were different, Burton said, and they had to first develop a true map.

Burton said he also used the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s records to verify if Jupiter Marine was within the CRA, which indicated it was not.

He also said the property was annexed into the city in 1996.

Mayor Shirley Bryant questioned whether the maps of the area at the time the decision was made were correct, and Burton said they were not clear.

“It just was a mistake,” Burton said.

In discussing if the CRA could take any action in getting the grant money returned, Zirkelbach asked about the $150,000 in infrastructure improvements that was within the district offsetting the $50,000 grant.

Board member Tambra Varnadore said she thought it would depend on whether the grant was awarded before or after the work was done.

In a December, 2005, Bradenton Herald article, the Fort Lauderdale-based boat maker said it planned to hire 75 employees for its 54,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Palmetto.

The city attorney recommended the board delay taking any action while it evaluates the issue until the next meeting, which the board did.