MANATEE -- With Rubonia residents making their discontent with neighborhood conditions known, District 1 Commissioner Larry Bustle will hold a Town Hall meeting to talk about their concerns.
Bustle, who represents Rubonia, brought up the issues Tuesday at a Manatee County Commission meeting. He said he would facilitate the meeting with county staff and possibly South Florida Water Management District officials present to answer questions.
"Talk about what would happen if you pipe the ditches in Rubonia and also talk about sidewalks and talk about the items that are of interest, the community center and the Mardi Gras," Bustle said. "We can address these items that are such a big concern, and a lot of claims are being thrown around."
With summer approach
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ing, Rubonia residents have recently expressed concerns about the condition of ditches, a lack of paved sidewalks, the closed community center and what residents call a poor drainage system.
The Rubonia neighborhood is off U.S. 41, between Palmetto and Interstate 275.
"We are underserved," Rubonia resident Alfred Smith said in a Bradenton Herald story published Sunday. "You don't have to be a rocket scientist. Look around. We are one of the oldest communities in Manatee County but we look the worst."
In regard to the Rubonia Community Center, which was closed in 2013 because of budget problems, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said the county is almost ready to put out an invitation to negotiate, seeking agencies to take over the building and run the community center.
"We will be looking at their ability, track record in operating (community centers) and resources available to them," Hunzeker said.
At least $133,300 in repairs are needed but Hunzeker said they want to make sure an organization wants to take over the building before the repairs are recommended to be completed.
Bustle's suggestion to hold a meeting came after District 2 Commissioner Charles Smith, who has family in Rubonia, brought up the Rubonia Mardi Gras, which was canceled this year.
Smith said he is looking to "head up the committee to make sure we have an opportunity to have it next year. I am not going to run a Mardi Gras, but if Commissioner Bustle doesn't object, I am going to ask his permission to try to spearhead meetings."
Bustle said he would not be in favor of one of the commissioners, including himself, heading a committee on Mardi Gras.
"I'm ready, willing and able and I have in the past advised the Mardi Gras committee," Bustle said.
"I am very much in support of the Mardi Gras. What I am arguing procedurally, that's my district. I am not getting involved in my hometown of Samoset because that's your district. From a procedural standpoint, I think it would be unwise for you to be in my district running a committee or advising a committee. That's just the way I feel."
Smith said he would yield to Bustle since Rubonia is in his district, but added people have been coming to him about the Mardi Gras and there may be a meeting at his church, where he is chairman of the deacon board.
"We got to quit not being involved in stuff and hiding behind a rock," Smith said. "They may not know what the resources are. The issue has been resources for the Rubonia Mardi Gras."
Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac said she doesn't think any one commissioner should lead the effort.
"It has had growing pains and they are looking for help and resources," she said.
Bustle said he, along with the county's neighborhood services staff, have been working with Rubonia since he was elected in 2008.
"The better plan is for the folks in Rubonia to run the Mardi Gras," Bustle said. "That's the better plan. That has worked in the past and that's what needs to happen in the future. ... The Mardi Gras fell apart for reasons I'm not prepared to discuss at this point. There's a big concern about law enforcement that's been required. To solve it is not for me to go out there and take over nor for you."
Bustle said Mardi Gras is not the problem.
"There is discontent in the community about what they think should be done in their community by the county," Bustle said. "All the efforts that we've put forth to this point has not been persuasive apparently. There is an issue of flooding. There is an issue of sidewalks and, of course, there is an issue of the community center and Mardi Gras. All of these things are active."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.