Manatee County lawmakers seek state funding for 9 local projects

Jesse Mendoza
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Piney Point phosphogypsum stacks in Manatee County in 2020.

Environmental remediation efforts and public infrastructure improvements are among the state funding requests being pursued this year by lawmakers representing Manatee County. 

Rep. Will Robinson

State Rep. Will Robinson has introduced bills that seek funding for initiatives throughout the county, which also include health care and education efforts. 

“The projects I filed are important to our regional area and could have a lasting impact for years to come,” Robinson said. “We are in a tough budget year, but if resources are available to fund important projects, I want my community to have an opportunity to get our priorities in the budget.”

Some of the largest funding requests are for coastal infrastructure and projects with environmental implications.

There is a $750,000 request for flood prevention efforts in Holmes Beach, $750,000 for the Bradenton Beach Resiliency Project, $900,000 to help repair or rebuild the Green Bridge Fishing Pier in Palmetto, $1.25 million for a force main on Longboat Key, $1.5 million for seagrass mitigation to offset environmental impacts of Port Manatee, and $6 million to help Manatee County treat and dispose of radioactive water at the Piney Point gypsum stack.

The project at Piney Point was requested by Manatee County commissioners, who need additional funding to permanently resolve concerns about radioactive materials at a gypsum stack that is just miles away from the waters of Tampa Bay.

“A future Piney Point environmental disaster will impact not only my district but the entire Tampa Bay region,” Robinson said.

Robinson added that the Longboat Key appropriations bill would provide resources to allow a duplicate sewer line to be constructed to avoid another environmental disaster in Sarasota Bay. A Longboat Key sewer line spilled millions of gallons of sewage into the bay last summer.

This is the second time legislators have sought appropriations for the Green Bridge Fishing Pier. Palmetto Mayor Shirley Bryant said funding was requested in 2020 for structural repairs, but the bill ultimately was vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“Hopefully we can get it funded because it is such a popular place for people to go fish,” Bryant said. “It is really in dire need of repair and probably replacement. It would be a great thing for Palmetto and Manatee County.”

Health care-related bills could also appropriate $2 million for a readmission reduction program at MCR Health, and $5 million for clinic-based services outreach by LECOM Health. 

Bills could also help fund education programs such as the Manatee Schools STEM Career Pathways Pilot, which is requesting $950,000 from the state. In 2019, Palm View Elementary School became the first school in the nation to receive Woz ED Pathway School designation, and the funding will help the district expand the programs to other schools. Pathway schools offer curriculum designed to help students explore their future in high-demand employment sectors.

“Woz ED programs allow students to start preparing from a very young age for the high-technology jobs of the future, and we want more of our students and schools to have access to these exciting opportunities,” said Manatee County School District Superintendent Cynthia Saunders.