Siesta Key Association meeting notes
By Diana Colson
Michael Shay called the meeting to order, and February Minutes were approved.
- Community Reports – Sheriff’s Office
Capt. John Walsh expressed appreciation for the fine work of Sgt. Scott Osborne, presenting him with a plaque for ten years of outstanding service on Siesta Key. Sgt. Osborne is being transferred to North Sarasota County.
Lt. Debra Kaspar reported that extra staff from the Sheriff’s office was brought onto Siesta Key to discourage crime during Spring Break. By ramping up the presence of the Sheriff’s Office, they were able to keep crime to a minimum, indicating they had put the right people in the right place at the right time. High school students flood into Siesta Key during the month of April, which can result in waves of juvenile crime. The Sheriff’s Office does all they can to keep things under control
Sgt. Chris Laster of the Mounted Unit said that men on horses have been working large events as well as Spring Break. “It has been pretty calm. A lot of it has to do with presence. We are very fortunate here compared to other counties.”
- Code Enforcement
Michael Shay reported that John Lally continues to work on illegal rentals.
- Sarasota County Update: Current & Future Capital Improvement Projects
An update was given by Commissioner Charles D. Hines, Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners. He distributed a handout to the audience: Citizen’s Guide to the Adopted Fiscal Year 2015 Budget.
Public Safety is the #1 issue. The Sheriff’s Office is the biggest part of our budget. Things can quickly go wrong if the Sheriff’s Office does not stay on top of things.
Commissioner Hines recently attended the Florida Association of Counties, and found we are in pretty good financial shape. We are still 30% down from the height of 2005-2006, yet we have $200,000,000 of Capital. Other counties are astonished at our successes. We have refinanced every single loan we have, lowering the interest rate each time we refinanced, which resulted in huge savings. We are AAA rated. Says Commissioner Hines: “Even as bad as the recession was, I didn’t see people bailing out of Sarasota—maybe they moved if they lost their jobs, but others stayed.”
The Commissioner went on to say that Gulf Gate Library has been rebuilt to the tune of 7.7 million. Emergency Operations Center has been built for 15.5 million. Blackburn Point Park and boat ramps have been built for 4.4 million. Bee Ridge Road East has been extended for 34 million. Emergency communications have been extended into a much broader area, serving not just Sarasota County, but also Manatee—at a cost of 32 million. “Hopefully we’ll get State and Federal Monies.” The cost for Siesta Key Beach is 2.5 million. The cost for four hurricane-proof fire stations is 18 million. And the list goes on.
Commissioner Hines credited the Sheriff for reaching out to the community and being responsive. “Realistically, what the Sheriff’s office needs during the next 6-7 years would cost $90-100 million, yet everybody says,don’t raise our taxes! It is always an issue of What Do We Want Vs. What Do We Need? I have asked the sheriff: what do you need in the next 2 years? In the next 5 years? Can you break it down into smaller pieces? Can you wait until we save up the money? We’ve got choices to make. Other communities are raising taxes in order to stay even with basic services such as water, sewer, fire, ambulance, etc.”
Commissioner Hines would like to see the LEGACY TRAIL finished into downtown Sarasota, which would cost $30-40 million. The City of Venice asked the County Commissioners for an extra one million dollars towards Venice Beach Re-nourishment Project, which was granted. This is because the project cost more than anticipated.
Our total County Budget is well over a billion dollars, $1,149,191,323 to be exact.
- Questions for Commissioner Hines/Public Comments
Reopen Midnight Pass? The cost of keeping the channel open is prohibitive. The State has turned us down.
Turtle Beach Re-nourishment? If we don’t get State money this year, Turtle Beach probably won’t happen.
Tourist Development Tax has sky-rocketed. Most goes to beach re-nourishment and maintenance. Can’t we build something that our full time residents can use as well as tourists, things such as dog parks? Yes. And if we did, we could advertise Sarasota as having dog-friendly beaches.
What about Private Property benefiting from beach re-nourishment? Expensive condos and hotels on Lido should throw in a little money to help fund the re-nourishment of beaches that front their buildings.
Catherine Luckner reported that the Army Corps had released an updated environmental assessment for the proposed Big Pass dredge plan to re-nourish Lido Key. She said this new assessment was incomplete, lacking in information, and inconsistent with our expectations. Significant changes had been made in this new application. One proposed groin on Lido would be 9 ft. wide, 4 ft. tall, and go out 400 feet from a seawall. The second proposed groin would be slightly shorter. Both groins start and finish at two commercial properties, meaning that people would not be able to walk the beach. “It would effectively destroy the walking beach on Lido. Our job is to raise questions,” said Catherine Luckner. A meeting will be held April 15 for public input.
- Old Business
2015 Great American Cleanup: Michael Shay reported that 33 volunteers contributed over 53 hours of work cleaning up Ocean Boulevard, Higel Avenue, and Midnight Pass Road.
Roundabout: Bob Stein reported that no decision had yet been made. 92 people have commented after receiving the first mail out. Another mailing will be made to nearby residents. A decision should be made by summer.
Siesta Key Village Municipal Lot: Michael Shay reported that currently there is no ordinance against trucks being parked in that lot. However, SKA and SKA Village Association will soon be meeting with the County Commissioners. They will propose a bill to restrict truck parking in the Siesta Key Village Municipal Lot. Hopefully that bill will quickly be passed.
The next SKA monthly meeting will be held May 7, 2015, at 4:30 pm.