Manatee church lacks $25,000 in fees in order to build

MANATEE -- The pastor of a local congregation that is trying to build a new church has inquired whether county officials can help his flock with more than $25,000 in fees that stand in the way of construction.

Pastor Cesar A. Garcia, of the Full Gospel Holiness Church in Samoset, has asked county officials whether they might allow some alternate arrangement, such as quarterly payments.

His congregation is ready to start construction of a new sanctuary and adjacent classroom space at 4955 15th St. E., but underestimated how much the cost of fees would add to the project, he said this week.

The county requires payment of the fees before it will issue a building permit, officials said.

"We're all ready to build," Garcia said.

The site has been cleared, the plans are complete and a local contractor, Dave Revels of Revels Construction, LLC, Bradenton, is willing to help the congregation with construction, Garcia said.

"They really need the church," Revels said Thursday. "I wish I had the money to give them."

The county is limited in what aid it can provide to the church, but is working to determine if there are any avenues to extend or make payments within the parameters of the county's ordinance, said Amy Pilson, public affairs liaison for the county Utilities Department.

More than $25,000 in "facility investment fees" cannot be waived, she said.

Pilson said there's "nothing we can do to reduce, or even waive them, because we are a bonded utility," that operates under strict financial rules.

Church members had been meeting at another site, but outgrew the building, said Garcia's daughter, Elizabeth, 18, a senior at Braden River High School.

They moved from that site, and bought the land for a new church, she said. For a while, the church's 100 members met on the cleared site in a tent, she added.

Now, they're meetingtemporarily at Bradenton Gospel Tabernacle, 1218 Seventh Ave. E., Bradenton, she said.

"We've had a pretty long journey to this point," said Elizabeth, who plans to start college in the fall at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.