Video: Mark Young, Bradenton Herald
“Keep Manatee Beautiful Executive Director Ingrid McClellan has been involved in a lengthy battle to rid Manatee County of unsightly and ‘illegal’ advertising benches scattered along state roadways, most being near Manatee County Transit Authority bus stops.
‘We think it’s taking too long,’ said McClellan.
Keep Manatee Beautiful Executive Director Ingrid McClellan says Bradenton is not doing enough to eliminate ‘illegal’ advertising benches and calls for corrective action.”
“Tampa-based Metropolitan Bench is making about $144,000 a year from the advertisement benches. Their contract with Manatee County expired in 2012 and the final benches in unincorporated Manatee County were removed just days ago. Those benches are now piling up within city limits.
Bradenton also has a contract with the company that dates back to 1971. According to Public Works Director Jim McLellan, ‘whoever negotiated that contract did it differently than the county’s and it didn’t have an expiration date or give us an out clause.’
McLellan said the city’s position is they want them gone, but staff must review the contract to determine how. McClellan said if the city reads the initial proposal requirements and enforces its land use regulations, the issue would be resolved. Requirements include that the benches not be angled toward the roadway by more than 30 degrees, that they not interfere with the right of way and they not be placed on grass.
Most of the estimated 144 benches are in violation of the requirements. MCAT is not allowing the benches to be placed on their concrete pads at the bus stops, so many of the benches were pushed off onto the grass.
‘It’s misleading to bus riders, too,’ said McClellan. ‘Technically, a bus doesn’t have to stop if riders are sitting on those unauthorized benches…’
The contract requires the company carries liability insurance; in 1971, that was $350,000. A typical event organizer will pay for a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance today. McClellan said the company was also required to submit applications to the city for each bench placed, ‘and there isn’t a single application on file.’
She said if the city would enforce its own rules, the benches would be required to be placed on their own concrete pads, which would require a permit through FDOT, which isn’t likely to happen. The only option for the company would be removal, she said.”
— Mark Young, Bradenton Herald
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