Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Has this partnership made sense for the people?

Pat Rounds has researched the convoluted Rowing Park deal between the Benderson developers and Sarasota/Manatee County in detail.  In response to the statement by former Commissioner Thaxton quoted in the Herald Tribune, Rounds made the comment below.

"...The original concept was for a youth rowing facility that wouldn’t require enlarging the lake to make a full 2,000-meter course. He thought it might cost about $2 million, Thaxton said..." 

Yet in a few short years at the urging of some local rowing clubs and Benderson Corp., a youth rowing facility that should have earned its way to greater investment was permitted by the County Commission to morph into a $40+ million dollar public investment "partnered" with a hollow pledge of corporate funding for a finish tower, boat house, permanent grandstands, restrooms and amphitheater to match the many millions in taxpayer revenue that built the infrastructure, including a man-made "regatta island". 
Where is the boat house? Where are the permanent grandstands? How about some restrooms---not Port-o-Johns? No amphitheater? Why not? Because the County Commission didn't require SANCA to sign a binding commitment to raise the $22 million to pay for those permanent buildings. Benderson Rowing Park was billed as a world-class venue. It's anything but.  
Three weeks before the World Rowing Championships, the park looks like the circus is setting up with rented bleachers, canvass tents where rowers can shower, and portable toilets----all paid with public $$$, not private. It's all been a clever shell game, with the joke on Florida and Sarasota County taxpayers. After the WRC leaves town, what next? More rentals at public expense to accommodate future events?  
Doesn't adjacent UTC benefit from being able to use the infrastructure (e.g., sewers, water retention ponds) created for the rowing park and paid for with public dollars? At least one party made out handsomely. Isn't this called jumping on the trolley without paying the fare?

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