Port Dolphin Energy officials are hard at work reconfiguring a proposed natural gas pipeline that everyone can live with.
In a letter to Manatee County dated Tuesday, German Castro, Port Dolphin's project development manager, wrote that the company has made "good progress in our effort to find an acceptable route" for its proposed underwater pipeline. The company has plans for a meeting with state and local officials to discuss the route at the end of October, but no other specifics have been released.
The company's original route called for a 42-mile pipeline to cross a sand burrow area near the northern tip of Anna Maria Island, traverse the mouth of the Manatee River and skirt the northern edge of the Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve. But a flood of public opposition forced the company to rethink its $1 billion plan.
The pipeline was among several topics about 20 public officials tackled at a council of governments meeting Wednesday at the public library in Palmetto.
Some in the meeting voiced unease at the company's plan, but Commissioner Joe McClash said the company understands the concerns of the community and that he thinks there will be "intense" public involvement with the next planned route.
Other Anna Maria topics dominated the agenda.
During an update on the Anna Maria Island Bridge closure, Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford said "it really hasn't been a problem" since the bridge closure was well planned and traffic is flowing smoothly. Other island officials agreed.
There was also some discussion of a planned forum on the local tourist tax and the possibility of a two-cent tax on restaurants. The idea is in its infancy, but some think the extra money could go to help pay for community marketing and beach renourishment.
"The purpose is to talk about how it is we spend the first four pennies (of the tourist tax)," said County Administrator Ed Hunzeker. "We've found there's a bit of a misunderstanding, even within county government, on how we spend that money. We're going to spend some time discussing the spending plan that's been in place a number of years. Then we're going to talk about opportunities for use of the tourist tax."
The tourist tax discussion is tentatively scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 13, but a venue has not been determined.
Officials also tried to form some consensus on a platform to present with state leaders, for more clout. For years, the county, municipalities, school board and other local groups have submitted to legislators a list of priorities for state and federal funding. But now there's movement to also present a list of requests that all the groups agree on, in order to gain clout before lawmakers.
"This is a great step forward," said Palmetto Mayor Larry Bustle. "Individual municipalities, the school board and the county ought to be on the same page. It allows our delegation to better represent us."
Copyright (c) 2008, The Bradenton Herald, Fla. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.