Special Reports

Manatee County to ask BP for $600K for advertising

BRADENTON — To get the word out that Manatee County beaches are clean, safe and open for business, the county commission will send a letter to BP asking for $600,000 to pay for advertising.

Larry White, retiring director of the Manatee County Convention and Visitors Bureau, who was honored for his service at Tuesday’s meeting, told commissioners he got the idea of requesting money from BP after seeing Pinellas County ask for funding.

BP gave Gov. Charlie Crist $25 million to spend on tourism publicity after the Deep Horizon well blowout.

White said the governor turned over that money to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion agency, with more than $8 million signed off to eight Panhandle beach counties.

Since then White said the director of the Pinellas County visitors bureau requested $1.8 million from BP.

“We were told all requests for funds should go to BP,” White said, “We will draft a letter and ask for $600,000.”

He said he was not that confident the giant oil corporation will respond positively.

The commissioners also heard from Charlie Hunsicker, director of the county Natural Resources Department and the county’s official incident commander-in-charge.

Hunsicker said several agencies and county departments, including public safety, Port Manatee, the health department, the convention and visitor’s bureau, and the utility department, along with DeSoto National Memorial Park, meet every Monday to discuss coordinating their efforts.

Since the April 20 disaster when the oil platform exploded killing 11 workmen, the county has worked on community outreach, he said.

“It’s up to us to get out the word that Manatee County and all of Southwest Florida is still untouched,” Hunsicker said. “We have the time to educate and coordinate.”

Laurie Feagans, chief of the county emergency management division, said it is important to get across to the public that Manatee County is dealing with an oil spill watch, not any kind of local spill.

Commissioner Joe McClash said that is an important point since the county probably will not see oil slicks washing up on the beaches.

“I don’t think we’re going to see any oil-soaked birds on our shores,” McClash said.

The county has to get the message out that only 100 miles of the state’s 1,400 miles of shoreline have been impacted directly, he said, although the whole state has been affected economically.

The commission also unanimously passed a resolution urging the governor to call a special legislative session to place a state constitutional ban on offshore oil drilling on the ballot.

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