By Roger Drouin
Free emergency notification service
Following the destructive tornados that struck the region in January, Sarasota County is urging residents to sign up for CodeRED, a free emergency notification service.
The CodeRED system allows people who sign up to receive calls, email alerts or text messages in the event of an emergency that could impact their neighborhood or business. Alerts include water or sewer interruptions, missing person alerts and major traffic detours, among others.
Sarasota County is also planning to soon add CodeRED's Weather Warning service, which will automatically notify those registered of tornado, flash flood and severe thunderstorm warnings just minutes after an alert is issued by the National Weather Service. Residents can register for CodeRED now to ensure they will have access to this essential preparedness tool when it becomes active.
CodeRED is available for free by visiting www.scgov.net and clicking the CodeRED registration under Emergency Services at the bottom of the page.
To register, you just need to enter your first and last name, physical address and primary phone numbers. For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000 and ask about CodeRED registration.
Coffee shop opens in Gulf Gate
The Gulf Gate commercial area welcomed a new coffee shop, The Clever Cup, which opened in January.
The Clever Cup is located at 6530 Gateway Ave., Sarasota. It was co-founded by local entrepreneurs Edgar de la O and Tracy de Chevron Villette, and serves local fair trade, organic coffee and espresso. Aside from the coffee and tea, the café serves pastries from Sift Bakehouse, a downtown bakery.
Aloft opens doors
Downtown Sarasota’s newest and hippest hotel is now open.
Located at 1401 Ringling Boulevard, the hotel is part of the One Palm project. The property has a total of 139 hotel rooms and 138 apartments.
The property which began construction in March 2014 opened its doors to the public Thursday, Feb. 4.
The hotel features loft-like rooms with an urban-influenced design, and also includes an outdoor Splash pool, 24-hour fitness center, complimentary Wi-Fi and 550 square feet of flexible meeting space, ideal for both business meetings and social gatherings.
“We are delighted to partner with Starwood Hotels to bring the popular Aloft brand to Sarasota, a vibrant hub for arts and culture. This stylish new Aloft hotel will give travelers a fresh, new option, while helping to meet the rising demand for high-caliber lodging in this fast-growing city,” said One Palm Managing Partner John Meshad, in a statement for the press.
“We’re thrilled to add Aloft Sarasota to our rapidly growing list of dynamic destinations in Florida, one of the brand’s fastest growing markets in the U.S.,” added Brian McGuinness, senior vice president, specialty select brands for Starwood.
County hires new historical resources manager
Sarasota County Libraries and Historical Resources has hired Robert F. Bendus as the new historical resources manager.
Bendus previously worked for the 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida and the Sarasota County Clerk of Court. Most recently, he served as director of the Division of Historical Resources in the Department of State, and as Florida State University's Historic Preservation Officer. He is expected to start in March.
Bendus said that Sarasota County's rich historical tapestry is what drew him to the position. “Sarasota County is one of the most historically significant places in the country,” Bendus said in a press release. “I am excited about working with the community and the entire county team to promote this great history.”
Bendus has a bachelor's degree in political science from Catholic University and a bachelor's in history from Florida State University, where he is pursuing a doctorate in history.
Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer said, “We were fortunate to be able to recruit someone of his caliber, and we look forward to the expertise he brings to the community.”
Bendus' local ties are a great benefit, and will lead to collaboration and connection of organizational missions through common themes, said Libraries and Historical Resources director Sarabeth Kalajian said.
New president takes the reigns at Argus
The Argus Foundation welcomed incoming President Rod Hershberger at its 32nd annual meeting Jan. 21.
Hershberger, Chairman and CEO at PGT Industries, replaces outgoing President Joe R. Hembree, president of the commercial real estate firm Hembree & associates, as head of the Foundation.
He will serve a one-year term. The Argus Foundation is a non-profit organization established in Sarasota in 1983 that seeks to bring together local business leaders.
Longboat mansion sells for $7M
A newly-constructed oceanfront home featuring five bedrooms, five-and-a-half bathrooms and a six-car garage, along with 151 feet of beach frontage, sold for $7 million in January.
The home located at 3475 Gulf of Mexico Drive, on the south end of Longboat Key, was built in 2014 and has 6,183-square feet of living area, according to the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office. The home has a pool and spa, and a six-car garage complete with golf cart storage.
The estate was designed by renowned Sarasota architect Mark Sultana and built by Sarasota builder of the year Voigt Brothers. It is located on .58 acres. The vacant property last sold in December, 2012 for $2.15 million as a building lot.
Office building sells downtown
The five-story PNC office building in downtown Sarasota sold this week for $15.9 million.
The buyer of the building, at 1549 Ringling Blvd., was Capstone Management LLC, according to court records.
The building is 82 percent occupied, with the fifth floor available for lease. The International Union of Police Associations and the Senior Information Center also occupy the building.
The seller, Mirsko Ringling Holdings LLC, bought the building in 2011 for $13.25 million, according to county property records.
The 55,221-square-foot building opened in 1983.
Last April, the five-story Ringling Square office-retail building across the street sold for $11.5 million.
Second Nancy’s Bar-B-Q opens in Lakewood Ranch
Nancy’s Bar-B-Q has opened a second location on Lakewood Ranch’s Main Street.
Nancy Krohngold’s new barbecue joint on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch, dubbed Li'l Nancy's at the Ranch (8141 Lakewood Main St. #104), started serving customers Jan. 31.
Krohngold, owner Nancy's Bar-B-Q in downtown Sarasota, first purchased the new spot in Lakewood Ranch in April. The barbecue guru originally planned to open in September but encountered some delays during construction.
Nancy’s Bar-B-Q is a popular restaurant downtown and does catering business across the region.
SPD reports card skimmers found
A device that steals credit card numbers, the second such discovered in a week, was found this morning at a gas station, the Sarasota Police Department reports.
The skimmer was found inside a pump at the Exxon at 1841 Tamiami Trail S. by store employees who noticed anti-tampering tape was missing. It is unknown how long the device was there.
Police encourage people to check for anti-tampering tape when pumping gas and to notify station employees immediately if it is missing or damaged. People who have recently purchased gas from that station should monitor their bank accounts for unknown transactions, no matter how small, and notify their bank if something seems suspicious, police say.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Sarasota Police Department at 941-316-1199 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at 941-366-8477.
Thieves steal $76,000 truck from dealership
These thieves came in the middle of the night with a flatbed truck.
The two thieves were caught on video stealing a pickup worth about $76,000 from a local car dealer in January by loading it onto a flatbed truck, the Sarasota Police Department reports.
On Jan. 30, two people drove a white flatbed truck into the parking lot of Sarasota Ford, 707 S. Washington Blvd. They worked quickly to load a white Ford F-450 onto the larger truck and drove off on Payne Parkway. The crime was recorded by security cameras.
Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Darrell Nixon at 941-954-7078 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at 941-366-8477 or at www.sarasotacrimestoppers.com.
Top building official named
Sarasota County has hired a new building official. Kathleen Croteau, who joined Sarasota County in 2011 as the deputy building official, will serve as the new building official.
She has served as the county's interim building official since September 2015.
The county building official is responsible for the administration and coordination of the Florida Building Code, including permit reviews and inspections for the Planning and Development Services (PDS) department.
"We're excited to have someone of Kathy's extensive background and experience in both the public and the private sector working in this role," County Administrator Tom Harmer said in a press release. "Kathy was selected after successfully competing in an extensive search process to fill this important position. As the current interim building official, Kathy's appointment would allow for a smooth transition as we move forward."
Croteau is vice president of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the Building Officials Association of Florida and is licensed as a state building code administrator, building plans examiner, building inspector and fire safety inspector.
Her previous work experience includes seven years with the City of Cape Coral as a building/fire plans examiner, site and development coordinator and deputy building official. From 1989-2004, she served as president of a structural steel and ornamental metals business.
Presidential Primary election coming up
It’s coming. Florida's presidential primary is March 15th.
The deadline to register to vote or change political parties was Feb. 16, and Florida voters will express their preferences for the Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian parties’ respective nominees for President. Registered members of each party may only vote in their party's primary, while voters who are unaffiliated may choose any one primary in which to vote.
The 2016 United States presidential election in Florida will take place on November 8, 2016, as part of the 2016 General Election.