Siesta Key Association Meeting Notes, MARCH, 2015
By Diana Colson
- Annual Breakfast Meeting
The March 7th gathering was a grand success. A lavish Breakfast Buffet was served to a room filled with guests. The Call to Order came at 9:30 am, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Tom Harmer, County Administrator.
- Committee Reports
Catherine Luckner reported that in August of 2014, SKA supported the use of tourist revenues to help re-nourish Lido beach, and the County Commission approved up to one million dollars for this project. Catherine said that in the middle of March the Army Corps of Engineers would be ready to release a new environmental assessment. SKA cannot develop a strategy until they have seen that plan. Their aim is to be certain Siesta Key, Lido, and the waters of the Bay are all kept in good shape. The County has approved $50,000 for an independent peer group to review this new assessment after it has been released.
Bob Stein reported that the Water Treatment Plant on Siesta Key will be decommissioned in 2016. A committee is being formed to consider possible uses of the 4 acres.
Helen Clifford reported that SKA’s finances are in excellent shape. “We have a very stable and well-governed financial system. Our money goes for projects that affect all on Siesta Key.”
- President’s Message
President Michael Shay reiterated the SKA mission, which is basically to protect Siesta Key. Some are long running projects, such as the dredging of Big Pass, while others are done in a day, such as road cleanup. He gave tribute to his mentor, Catherine Luckner, who taught him that one does not have to be adversarial to get things done.
- Acknowledgements and Special Guests
Michael acknowledged the many organizations and individuals that join SKA in protecting the Siesta Key environment. The introduction of each group or individual was met with applause for their valuable contribution. Capt. John Walsh of the Sheriff’s Office said that his agency is so entrenched within the community that we do not have the problems of other communities. Law Enforcement works with the goal of preventing crime before it happens. Siesta Key is served by veteran law enforcement personnel, all with years of experience.
- 2015 Directors and Officers
Joyce Kouba, Nominating Chair, introduced the SKA Board and Officers. They are: Michael Shay, President; Robert Stein, 1st Vice President; Catherine Luckner, 2nd Vice President; Joyce Kouba, Secretary; and Paul Wilkinson, Treasurer. Board members also include Troy Roberts, Beverly Arias, Helen Clifford, Deet Jonker, and Joe Volpe.
- Introduction of Speakers
Michael Shay first introduced Alan Maio, recently elected as County Commissioner. Alan was quick to emphasize that he had not “defeated” Nora Patterson. She had reached term limits by serving for two full terms, a total of 8 years. “Nora will be my historical resource,” he said.
Commissioner Maio spoke glowingly of the Siesta Beach renovation, which is 2/3 complete, and will include 143 extra new parking places: “It will be a beautiful, beautiful thing!” The beach receives over 2.5 million visitors a year, and the cost of renovations is 17 million dollars. This has been accomplished with no increase in the 3.39 millage over the past 15 years. Sarasota County recently saved 69 million dollars in interest charges, resulting in major improvements to Sarasota’s credit rating.
Commissioner Maio said that the County has endorsed $300,000 for a Parks Master Plan. Sarasota County has 160 parks covering 55,000 acres. “One third of the County is in Public ownership. Other communities just don’t have that.” Furthermore, the beautiful new Gulf Gate Library is now open, four brand new fire houses are being built, and Suncoast Technical College is expanding. Sarasota County operates on a 1.15 Billion Dollar Budget, and has $155 million dollars in reserves.
Michael Shay next introduced Tom Harmer, Sarasota County Administrator, who reiterated that the County is in good financial shape. “We have 2100 employees in 17 different departments. We are careful and frugal. Customer Service is our primary goal, and 93% of the community is satisfied with County Services.” He pointed out that 600-700 employees would reach retirement within the next few years.
When asked what he thought was the most important issue being faced by the County, Tom Harmer said it was unfunded capital needs. Maintenance of structures has been deferred and the County needs to maintain what we already have.
Citizens are welcome to contact the County by phone at 941.861.5000. Or they may send e-mails through the website at www.scgov.net.
- Comments from Membership
Questions came from the floor concerning traffic flow on Midnight Pass, parking in the Village, bridge openings, and the like. Michael Shay, Alan Maio, Tom Harmer and Capt. Walsh fielded these questions.
The Annual Breakfast Meeting was adjourned. The next SKA Meeting is Thursday, April 2, at 4:30 pm: St. Boniface Church, Room “F”, 5615 Midnight Pass, Siesta Key.