Manatee County Administrative Building COVID Outbreak

Due to a number of COVID-19 cases detected among employees, the County AdminBuilding will close to the public today at 2:30pm.  Employees are being directed to leave the building early to enable the entire facility to be disinfected, including fogging.

According to sources, the outbreak includes 6 employees in the IT department.  Despite the free availability of vaccines for these employees, none were vaccinated.  Of the 6 employees, 2 passed away this week and 4 are currently hospitalized.  County Administrator Dr. Hopes is working closely with the County Health Department to conduct contract tracing to determine the next steps.  As an epidemiologist, Hopes has a unique set of skills to ensure the county is taking all the necessary precautions to keep this contained. 

Offices will reopen on Monday, June 21 at 8 am. When the offices reopen, COVID-19 safety protocols will resume, including mandatory face masks.

Op Ed- The BOCC Budget Will Be Based on Facts, Not Emotions

When I was elected as a County Commissioner, I was tasked with a fiduciary responsibility to spend your tax dollars wisely. We are not afforded the flexibility to allocate funds based solely on emotions or personal desires. This community should always insist that each dollar budgeted is fully vetted and utilized in a manner that maximizes your safety, well-being and quality of life.

This Wednesday (June 16) at a work session on our future Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), the topic of the future animal shelter took center stage. (The full discussion can be seen in the video here or view it on YouTube starting right around the 2:00 mark.)

I have made it known that I believe that animal services and how we care for these animals are an important component to the overall quality of life in Manatee County. I have stated my support of our no-kill policies and I will continue to do so while on this Board. I was one of four votes that has now started the process of creating a local Ordinance banning the retail sale of dogs and cats. I anticipate that Ordinance to come before us later this summer and I will fully support it once again and hopefully see it executed and become law in our county. I understand the emotions of the animal shelter, but I must put them aside and look at things rationally when I am tasked with using your money.

I believe our entire Board agrees that the current animal shelter is well past its useful life and needs to be shut down permanently and expeditiously. When I first took office, I reviewed the plans and was prepared to move forward with the East County Shelter. However, things took a turn when we learned that the County would be receiving an extremely generous donation of the Bishop Animal Shelter, one of the premier shelters in Florida. Bishop resolves all the issues we currently have with our Palmetto shelter. We, as a Board and as a community, need to factor in opportunities like this when assessing our plans. Clearly, we at least need to ask ourselves if a $10MM shelter in addition to Bishop is warranted or the best use of your tax dollars?

I have done my due diligence and I believe my proposal on Wednesday was both rational and financially responsible. Until we know exactly what we need once we have Bishop, we cannot possibly know what we must provide out east. However, the CIP recently handed to us reflected the start of the East County Shelter immediately. A financially sensible option is to take control of Bishop in order to assess our capacity needs, service needs and financial needs before making rash, emotional decisions. I proposed leasing flex space or retail space out east on a three-year lease to have an adoption outpost near our population growth. This would most likely cost us around $150,000 for the full 36 months (assuming $10/sf for 5,000 sf) plus maybe $100,000 to build out the space, or around $250,000 for the three years. This is a far different budget than the revised $6,000,000 proposed in the CIP. It would give Manatee County a second location, additional capacity and time to truly determine our needs before expending your dollars.

We, as Commissioners, are constantly tasked with making difficult decisions and occasionally unpopular trade-offs for our constituents. They are never easy and there are always parties on each side of every decision. Before I took office, I vowed to always do my homework and always do what I felt was right, even if the opposing side occasionally felt louder or more passionate. I pledged to everyone that I would be fiscally responsible with your hard-earned tax dollars and use them in ways that maximized the quality of life for all of Manatee County without increasing the financial burden on individual families. This current Board of County Commissioners will remain fiscally conservative with your dollars and we will always stand behind facts over emotions.

Here are the facts versus narrative:

I believe this is a rational plan based on facts and data and not based on emotion and protest. Of course, not everyone sees it this way. Today, we received an email stating that the organization that was fundraising for our animals is pulling out entirely due to the “misrepresentations and half-truths” heard in our meeting. That got me thinking about the “truths” being passed around in the media, on social media and through our inboxes to rile up opposition to our commonsense approach.

  • “The Board is ignoring the citizens that voted for this animal shelter. We’re ignoring their wishes at the ballot box.”

FACT: The Infrastructure Sales Tax was voted on and approved on November 8, 2016. At the time of that ballot, Animal Services was listed at $1,000,000 (0.3%) to renovate the existing shelter. The Board at that time did not feel the need to allocate funds to a new shelter and were comfortable renovating the current building.

On April 23, 2019 (two and a half years later), the Board unilaterally voted to remove $8,000,000 from Parks funds (that were voted on by the citizens) and move them to Animal Services to add the new East County Shelter. (You can view the whole discussion here or on YouTube starting around the 2:05 mark.) In fact, they knew it was going against the voters so they debated moving Animal Services under Parks just to “keep the percentages the same” due to “perception versus reality” so people wouldn’t complain about losing funds for tennis courts.

It was at this time, in 2019, when the Board ignored the citizen’s wishes and took the voted-on funds that could have been funding our shortfall in boat slips, pickleball courts and pools to reallocate at their personal discretion.

  • “The Board is removing $8,000,000 from Animal Services and leaving them with nothing.”

FACT: Manatee County is receiving the incredible gift of the Bishop Animal Shelter. This is a state-of-the-art facility that is substantially better than what we originally intended to build. We are going to improve it even further by allocating $4,000,000 of these funds to renovating this facility. This is already 50% of the previous Parks funds going toward Animal Services. Additionally, we need to be aware that building something is one thing; operating it is another. Our CIP reflects the revised operating budget for Bishop to be almost $3,250,000/year, a 20% increase to our existing budget. These additional funds come out of our general tax funds – your tax dollars – in place of other services. We, as a Board, are agreeing to commit these additional funds for the improvement of our Animal Services. Building a second, substantial facility would further inflate this annual budget and further strain our general funds. These are the facts and data that need to be considered when we are responsible for your money.

  • “The County is underfunding Animal Services because we don’t care about the animals.”

FACT: The budget we received, and past budgets, show funds for animal services greater than the allocated funds for affordable housing for our teachers, first responders and others at need as well as allocated funds for Veteran Services, including homeless vets…combined. Yes, as unfortunate as it is, the truth of our budget is that we already spend more funds housing and caring for our animals than we do for housing and caring for our people in need. While that speaks to the underfunding of these critical human needs, it also puts the funding for Animal Services in perspective.

  • “We’re turning our backs on an organization that’s raised $2,000,000 from the community.”

FACT: Part of the proposal back in 2019 that led to this non-voter approved CIP adjustment to build the animal shelter was a promise of a $2,000,000 “public-private partnership”. At that Board meeting, it was stated that the then-County Attorney would finalize an agreement with the organization. As of earlier this week, I was told there is absolutely no formal agreement and it’s entirely verbal and good faith. Their website states that they would fund this partnership “as requested” during construction. My personal conversation with them was different. I was told they expect the County to build an $8,000,000 fully-functioning facility entirely with your tax dollars and then, down the road when it is at capacity, this organization would fund the expansion – with no agreement to guarantee that the taxpayers wouldn’t be held responsible for that cost resulting from protests of overcrowding. As of today, through large donations from Mosaic and a $100,000 match grant from a Foundation, as well as individual donations via PayPal and a PO Box on Holmes Beach, their website reflects total contributions of $332,859 after two years. This is a sizable amount for sure, but far short of the $2,000,000 pledged in both the initial CIP and the currently presented CIP. You, the taxpayer, would be well on your way to funding this additional $2,000,000 (above and beyond the $8,000,000) in place of other CIP projects without an agreement or funds available. Fortunately, their website specifically states, “In the event that the Manatee County Government has not begun construction on the new animal shelter by July 15, 2022, the funds shall be contributed to one or more Manatee County animal welfare/sheltering organizations.” – so this is good news for our animal community.

  • Finally, we are told that Bishop “can only handle 60 dogs” so this is not adequate capacity: thus, the need for another $6,000,000 taxpayer-funded shelter.

FACT: The original two buildings at Bishop have a combined 60 dog capacity. Fortunately, the new $9,000,000+ facility has 68 individual dog bays in additional to a 250-cat capacity and other wildlife accommodations. This is a combined 128 dog capacity which is over 50% larger than the 80-dog capacity of our current shelter and it exceeds the 120-dog average occupancy of the current shelter. Yes, we do occasionally exceed this average, but a) you cannot always build to a maximum when costs are involved and b) the leased outpost via flex/retail space out east would cover a substantial portion of this deficit.

George Kruse, Manatee County Commissioner, At Large, can be found on Facebook for comment or reached at george.kruse@mymanatee.org

Friends of Manatee County Animal Services awarded $10,000 grant from Community Foundation of Sarasota County for Grace and Friends Medical Fund

Bradenton, FL (June 17, 2021) – The Friends of Manatee County Animal Services (FoMCAS) is excited and honored to be the recipient of the Robert Parker Fund and Martha Leiter and Nancy Streetman Fund I of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County through the Animal Welfare Grant Program.

FoMCAS works hand in hand with Manatee County Animal Services to enrich the lives of the shelter animals by raising funds to provide additional resources, medical care, and heartworm treatment.

FoMCAS board president, Kassandra Zess-Pagel explains, “This grant will be used specifically for the Grace and Friends Medical Fund which finances emergency and specialized medical care for dogs and cats with serious, yet treatable, health issues which will improve their chances of being adopted into forever homes.”

Grace is a dog who came into the shelter in July of 2018 transferred from a local emergency veterinarian clinic. She was most likely hit by a car, had no mobility and could not stand on her own. No one showed up to claim her. She was young, probably under a year old. When Grace started to show small signs of improvement, FoMCAS committed to giving her a chance by funding her surgery and whatever it took to make her healthy. Today, after many diagnostic tests, surgery and months of physical therapy, Grace has made a full recovery and has been adopted by a wonderful family who loves and adores her.  

According to board member, Caryn Hodge, “With the past year being challenging for fundraising efforts, this generous grant is very much needed and will go to help animals with medical needs.” FoMCAS also provides foster and enrichment items to the shelter like Kuranda beds so no animal has to sleep on a concrete floor.

FoMCAS formed in 2016 and will be celebrating five years in October, 2021. Without donations and grants, FoMCAS would not be able to provide funds to help the shelter animals. The Robert Parker Fund and Martha Leiter and Nancy Streetman Fund I, through the Community Foundation, will be instrumental in helping FoMCAS continue to fulfill their mission and save the lives of countless animals.

About Friends of Manatee County Animal Services: Friends of Manatee County Animal Services’ mission is to work hand in hand with Manatee County Animal Services to enrich the lives of the shelter animals by raising funds to provide additional resources, medical care, and heartworm treatment. For more information visit www.fomcas.org or call 941-713-3105.

About the Community Foundation of Sarasota County: The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is a public charity founded in 1979 by the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council as a resource for caring individuals and the causes they support. Enabling them to make a charitable impact on the community. With assets of $418 million in more than 1,500 charitable funds, the Community Foundation awarded grans and scholarships totaling $211.5 million dollars last year in the areas of education, the arts, health and human services, civic engagement, animal welfare and the environment. Since its founding, the Community Foundation has been able to grant more than $274 million to area nonprofit organizations to our community thanks to the generosity of charitable individuals, families, and businesses. For more information, visit www.CFSarasota.org or call (941) 955-3000.

Goldencare Home Care Hiring Event – Fort Myers – 6/29/21

Goldencare Home Care is hiring for Home Health Aide positions When: Tuesday, June 29, 2021 from 10am to 2pm Where: CareerSource Fort Myers Center, 6800 Shoppes at Plantation Drive, Suite 170, Fort Myers, FL 33912 What: Looking for Home Health Aide and CNA Positions Employ Florida Job Order #11444317 – HHA/CNA How: upload your resume […]

Originally found on Career Source Read More

14th Annual Fire Charity Fishing Tournament with first ever weekend festival was a great success

This past weekend the 14th Annual Fire Charity Fishing Tournament realized its vision of becoming a weekend-long fishing festival.  The Palmetto location of Riverside Park was a perfect venue to showcase a variety of local musicians, vendors, and activities for all to enjoy making the event a success.

The junior division fished Saturday from the Green Bridge Fishing Pier with over 120 kids participating.  The offshore teams were able to get an early start Friday night while the inshore and spearfishing teams were part of a shotgun start in the mouth of the Manatee River with beautiful weather early Saturday morning.  The teams were challenged by weather at times over the weekend but it didn’t stop them from producing some incredible results.

Events like this take a lot of work to plan, organize, and execute.  Erik’s Nicholson, local fireman and tournament founder, has a passion and dedication for this event that is contagious spreading from the participants and crowd to the vendors and volunteers.  The sponsor list is filled with many great businesses, the volunteers were plentiful and organized, the crowds were large and family-friendly.  The new venue required a few last-minute changes and extra work but everyone pitched in to make it a success.  Being the humble host that he is, Erik took every opportunity to thank his volunteers and sponsors who went above and beyond to ensure the weekend’s success.  The results of everyone’s contributions have made the Fire Charity Fishing Festival rise to become one of the premier regional fishing events. 

Erik Nicholson shares a moment on stage with the crowd and kids.
Some of the young participants celebrating others catches during the weigh in.

The “vibe” of the tournament is best understood by Erik’s words while describing the inshore comradery and sportsmanship, “Being our first year as a festival brought a lot of new challenges, but we were blown away by how each challenge was overcome; Above all, I was blown away by the sportsmanship and integrity of our participants. With over 500 participants who fished the event, for the first time ever one of our folders disappeared which had us miss one of our winners. When we found this mistake, we went to the team and let them know and what I was met with blew my mind. Captain TJ Stewart and Captain Trevor Hoff went back on stage together to share the spotlight. These competitive teams’ fish “against” each other and have been neck in neck, year after year; to see them come together and congratulate each other with no ego, or hurt feelings was one of the best things I’ve ever seen at this event in 14 years.”  

Events like this are important to the community for many reasons. People can come out and collectively enjoy some of our beautiful natural assets, mingle with friends, meet new friends, support local vendors, engage in some fun competition, and support a great cause.  

“We are still in the process of determining the final proceeds, but I can say without a doubt, we will be once again able to fund the Children’s Burn Foundation of Florida’s attendees and do some other amazing things for our community,” said Erik on the funds received for the charity.  It’s clear that no matter what names you read in the results below, the real winner was the community and those that are directly helped by the funds raised.  

Check out this video of the tournament’s start filmed and edited by MakSchu Productions, LLC.  MakSchu Productions “main focus is creating designs, animations and promotional videos for locally run companies. These videos will help businesses market their missions, and reach out to the community. They set out to start a company in Sarasota, FL to better serve local businesses in branding and promoting themselves in an affordable and professional way.”  

Tournament Results

Below are each team’s captains name and their boat or team name

Junior Division

1st Place: Cooper Duquette, fishing on boat Tipin Pigs

2nd Place: Devin Calderon, fishing on boat SaltyBonz

3rd: Place: Layla Turner, fishing on boat Lil Grass

Spear Division

1st Place: Ben McCann, fishing on H2O StorPro 

2nd Place: Mike Jeanes, fishing on boat Team Trident

3rd Place: Logan Reiber, fishing on boat Pokin’ Holes

Inshore Division

1st Place tie: Trevor Hoff, fishing on boat Team Hoff Enterprise powered by Star Fish Co

1st Place tie: T.J. Stewart, fishing on boat Richardson Stinton Roofing powered by Skeeter Boats

2nd Place: Nick Cardieri, fishing on boat Secret Sauce

3rd Place: Josh Bibler, fishing on boat Team Naturdays

Offshore Division

1st Place: Randall Langley, fishing on boat Gotcha

2nd Place: Paul Christi, fishing on boat Jumbo Shrimp

3rd Place: Danny Pool, fishing on boat Team Seaviche

This set of photos were taken by tournament volunteer, Heidi Scott, who does an excellent job capturing some great moments and shared with Manatee Herald for this article.  Heidi has been the face behind the camera at this event since it started 14 years ago.  She has become very close to the committee and many of the fishermen and their families.

Below are some additional moments capture by Manatee Herald staff.

We are Hiring – Career Development Representative I in Labelle- Apply by 7/2/2021

The Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board, Inc. dba CareerSource Southwest Florida has an open position in Labelle, Hendry County, Florida! Career Development Representative I – Labelle, Florida – Employ Florida JO #11447622 Position Summary: provide a variety of workforce development customer services such as conference room scheduling, hiring event support, workshops and other events to […]

Originally found on Career Source Read More

We are Hiring! Communications and Website Specialist – Apply by 7/2/2021

The Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board, Inc. dba CareerSource Southwest Florida has an open position in Fort Myers, Lee County! Communications/Website Specialist – Fort Myers, Florida – Employ Florida JO #11447571 Position Summary: At the direction of the Communications Manager, the Communications Specialist will carry out the day-to-day operations of the Communications and Public Awareness […]

Originally found on Career Source Read More

Local Florida House of Representatives, Will Robinson, Provides Recent Legislative Highlights

Local Representative Will Robinson (Republican) of District 71 is the Chair of the Professions & Public Health Subcommittee and holds a seat on 4 other committees: Health & Human Services Committee, Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, Insurance & Banking Subcommittee, Regulatory Reform Subcommittee.  Manatee Herald reached out to Representative Robinson for comment on the recent legislative session.  Here is what he had to say:

We just completed the 2021 legislative session.  The session was exceptionally successful.  At the outset of session, the fiscal outlook for Florida’s upcoming fiscal year was uncertain, given the COVID-19 budget restraints.  There was even concern about completing the session on time but with careful protocols and weekly testing, we completed our work on time and presented to the Governor a budget that addresses the needs of our great state in a fiscally responsible manner.  In early June, the Governor signed the budget. 

During this session, I was honored by Speaker Chris Sprowls to chair the Professions and Public Health Subcommittee, which covers many health care policy areas, including medical marijuana, scope of practice for doctors and nurses, telehealth, and abortion.  I am proud of the work that we did on the subcommittee to deliver more free market and affordable health care options to all Floridians.  This session I also served on Health & Human Services Committee, Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, Insurance & Banking Subcommittee, and Regulatory Reform Subcommittee.  In each committee, we accomplished great work.

In the 2021 session, 275 bills passed both Chambers.  I sponsored five bills that dealt with a variety of topics that passed both Chambers.  Six of my member appropriations were part of the approved budget.  Those appropriations included much needed funding for Easterseals of Southwest Florida and to the Manatee School District for a STEM Career pathways pilot that had been so very successful at Palm View Elementary.  I was also pleased to work with Senator Boyd and the Governor to secure $100 million dollars to finally close out Piney Point, which earlier this year sustained a major breach and caused nearby neighbors to evacuate and untold environmental damage.  

We accomplished a lot during the session, but I’d like to highlight three important policy bills that the Governor has already signed from this session.

One of the first bills that passed this session was SB 72, which enhanced liability protections against COVID-19 related claims filed against businesses.  This law is so important to provide certainty due to the threat of unknown and potentially unbounded liability claims that may arise from the lawsuits filed because of the pandemic.  Many businesses struggled to stay open and did their very best to safely protect their employees and customers.  Lawsuits that could bankrupt business owners and force employee layoffs would be unfair and not good for Floridians.

SB 2006 was a comprehensive bill that included many provisions including banning the production of vaccine passports.  It also required cities and counties to limit any emergency orders that limit the rights or liberties of individuals.

Finally, SB 90 improves our current election system in Florida by requiring better monitoring and placement of drop boxes, prohibiting someone from submitting more than one completed ballot not belonging to a direct family member, and requiring that to vote-by-mail it must be renewed each election cycle.

Committee weeks for the 2022 session start in September so please reach out to my office [my district legislative office phone number is 941-708-4968 and my email address is will.robinson@myfloridahouse.gov].  Please feel free to contact me if you ever have any concerns or need any help.

Meet Pete Britton, Active Local Community Member and Small Business Expert

Pete Britton is a long-time resident of Manatee County. He graduated from Manatee High School in 1978. Pete is a people person which is why his career in sales has been so successful. He enjoys connecting with people in ways that are beyond the superficial “know your customer” methods. With exception of a brief time at Northern Trust, Pete has been in the Professional Employee Organization (PEO) industry for almost the last 30 years. The PEO industry used to be called the employee leasing industry but changed its name for clarification.  Pete, President of Bridgely Key Options, told the Manatee Herald, “Many people were confusing us for temporary help as employee leasing.  The term professional employer does a better job of representing what the industry is all about.” His start in the PEO industry was at Staff Leasing.  Staff Leasing is widely known for being responsible for the industry’s success today.  Given his roots and experience in the PEO industry, in 2013, he and his partners started Bridgely Key Options, LLC.   

Bridgely Key Options is an insurance agency specializing in providing solutions for small business owners using PEO and traditional insurance products.  “Using all the great tools from a PEO and having the ability to supplement that with insurance products when necessary really allows us to create a solution for our customers that is cost-effective and unique to them.  Companies that use a PEO grow 7-9 times faster, their turnover is 10%-14% lower, and are 50% less likely to go out of business,” explained Pete.  

Bridgely Key Options works with independent brokers and agents to create a large salesforce across the state.  “Brokers and agents work with us (Bridgely Key) because of the relationships we have with several PEO’s to help them with pricing and underwriting.  They trust us, which is very important.”  

Pete is active in the community with a variety of organizations.  “I believe in giving back to the community.  We regularly give to charities, organizations like the Bradenton Blue, and similar great local foundations.  We can’t give to them all, but I wish we could.”  As a small business advocate and solutions provider, Bridgely Key Options is active in the local chamber of commerce.  “Bridgely Key’s service model is designed to support all business owners and employees.  Many people think you have to be a larger employer to benefit from a PEO, but it is actually quite opposite.  Employers that have 3 or more employees make great customers as they benefit from the PEO model allowing them to focus on their business and growth.”  Pete added, “An additional benefit, often overlooked, is the time saved by using a PEO and how that enables business owners to spend more time with their family.  We love to hear how we helped them save the money and gave them the time to go on a vacation.”

If you would like to learn more about the small business solutions and insurance products Bridgely Key Options offers, you can call Pete at 941-896-4880 or visit their website at https://bridgely.com.

If you would like to advertise in Manatee Herald, please click here to learn more.

Editorial Disclosure:  Dennis Cooley, the Publisher of Manatee Herald is one of Pete Britton’s partners at Bridgely Key Options, LLC.  

Manatee County to offer personalized assistance to those applying for rent help

MANATEE COUNTY, FL (June 11, 2021) – Starting next week, Manatee County will offer one-on-one support to anyone who needs help applying for Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds which are being distributed to help those who have fallen behind on rent payments because of losses from the pandemic.

Beginning Wednesday, June 16, County staff will offer insight and help navigating the online application at three central locations: Downtown Central Library, Palmetto Library and Gulfcoast Legal Services which is located in the CareerSource Suncoast building at 1112 Manatee Avenue East. The ambassadors at the two County libraries are bilingual, able to help both English and Spanish-speaking residents. Because dates, hours and locations may change based on turnout, full details for ERA help are being kept up-to-date at www.mymanatee.org/RentHelp

“The staff ambassadors out in the community is an idea that came about from our local non-profit agencies who suggested having someone available at convenient locations during a variety of hours — including some evening and Saturday hours — to help those who need help,” said Geri Lopez, director of the Redevelopment and Economic Opportunity Department. “We’re calling the staff representatives ‘ambassadors’ because they’ll be there to help guide and assist applicants through the process and hopefully remove some of the confusion over applying.” 

To date, about 300 Manatee County applicants have been approved for Emergency Rental Assistance funds totaling $1.8 million. 

Under the ERA, eligible renters may receive grant funds for up to 12 months of assistance, if needed, through November 2021, whichever is less. Funds are paid directly to the landlord for delinquent rent bills. Full details and the application portal can be found at www.mymanatee.org/renthelp

Applicants must be at or below 80 percent of the area median income (AMI), which is $43,850/year for a one-person household. Renters who are at or below 50 percent of the AMI ($26,800/year for a one-person household) are given priority, along with those who have documented unemployment for more than 90 days. This is based on the number of people living in your household and the total income for all in your household (including spouse, roommate, elderly parent, adult children, etc.).

For more information on Manatee County Government, visit www.mymanatee.org or call (941) 748-4501. You can also follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/manatee.county.fl and on Twitter @ManateeGov.