Bradenton and Palmetto mayors not only shared a common stage Thursday at Renaissance on 9th for a Manatee Chamber of Commerce event, but acknowledged their shared successes, visions, goals and concerns for the future of the two cities.
Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said she is committed to the city’s mission statement, “To provide good health, safety and welfare of our residents and businesses.”
Palmetto has much to brag about the last few years, including the state’s first “Green Street” project on Fifth Street West. The city has improved Sutton Park with more improvement projects coming, completed Martin Luther King Jr. Park, Riverside Park boat ramp and dock upgrades, a living shoreline project and the completion of the first of six multimodal phases.
But sometimes it’s what the citizens don’t see that are the most important of all.
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“It’s been a 10-year mission to improve our wastewater treatment,” Bryant said. “People don’t think about it until there is a crisis. We’ve seen infrastructure failures throughout the United States. We take it seriously and we want to help and do our part that our water and waterways and everything we appreciate stays for our kids and grandkids.”
Palmetto has invested millions of dollars into its wastewater facility and the construction of an aquifer recovery and storage well, which Bryant is hopeful will be online by the end of the year to reach the city’s goal of having 100 percent reuse water availability. The city already is up to 68 percent, which “is saving millions of gallons of potable water and reducing discharge into the bay.”
Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said the city is growing and changing with multiple projects getting started or scheduled to start soon. Key to that growth is the planned downtown parking garage. Poston said there are 1,700 parking spaces in downtown Bradenton, “But people are needing more. A lot of things are going on downtown, so get ready for a busy downtown because there will be a lot of people there.”
The Bradenton-Sarasota area was recently named the 10th fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country with 20,000 new residents calling the area home last year alone. With more residents, seemingly more visitors and rapid development, the mayors were grilled on hot topic issues like affordable housing and traffic.
Poston said the city continues to look at the affordable housing issue, “But what is affordable? It’s something the Legislature can’t seem to wrap their heads around. Government says one thing but when you talk to people like millennials, it’s very different what affordable means. And then you have the Legislature continuing to rob affordable housing funding to pay for other things.”
Both mayors also say the affordable housing issue will be made worse if the Legislature continues on its current path to tie the hands of community redevelopment agencies.
“There’s a lot of misinformation on that,” Bryant said. “CRAs are critically important to both cities. If the Legislature makes the changes they are proposing, it’s not tax savings, it would penalize municipalities.”
Poston said the Legislature is being reactive to issues in the Miami area and have decided to punish everyone.
“We should not be penalized in Bradenton and Palmetto for a couple of bad actors on the east coast,” he said.