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Up & Down the Trail

Sarasota news

By Stan Zimmerman

County picks new lobbyist

For nearly 20 years the law firm Holland & Knight was Sarasota County’s ear to the ground on Capitol Hill. But last year the county opened up the position and solicited proposals. The winner is Becker & Poliakoff, which surprisingly has a local office.

And maybe not so surprisingly, one of the lawyers in that local office is Florida Representative Greg Steube. Although the contract calls for Washington work, not Tallahassee efforts, Steube says he can help guide and explain the county’s position, and conversely interpret a little of the congressional lingo for local ears.

Expenses are limited to $10,000 per month, plus an annual $10,000 travel expense account. The deal is good for three years.

Five lobby firms responded to the county’s call for proposals. Holland & Knight placed third. They held the position since 1996.

Meanwhile the Sarasota County School Board says it too needs a set of eyes and ears in the capital, the state capital in Tallahassee. It has announced plans to hire a lobbyist too. The idea was pushed by board member Shirley Brown, a former state legislator.

The board expressed concern about the growing number and complexity of bills every year, which they said makes it difficult for board members and school staffers to stay abreast of the proposed legislation.

Heads rolling in county government

Two senior county staffers are out of work as the new county administrator begins to rearrange his government. Natural Resources Director Amy Meese was let go; she was named director in 2006. The department will be broken up and its functions distributed to other divisions. More controversial was the termination of Steve Uebelacker, the county’s ethics officer. He told a newspaper he was forced out after starting to examine allegations about County Commissioner Joe Barbetta. Both Barbetta and County Administrator Tom Harmer denied it.

Meese will be replaced by Matt Osterhoudt, a 15-year veteran of county government. Uebelacker’s job will be taken by Steve Olmstead; he has worked in county human resources for 12 years.

Harmer was picked for the administrator job after county commissioners fired Randall Reid last October without cause.

Broken building gets surgery

After standing vacant four years, the Dolphin Tower condominium facing the bayfront downtown is noisy again. It’s not the hubbub of recipe sharing, it’s the sound of high-pressure water jets demolishing concrete.

In 2010 a crack in a “transfer slab” was discovered, and the building was evacuated. For many residents, it was the last time they saw their homes. Years of legal wrangling ensued before an insurance company paid off an undisclosed amount.

After several engineering approaches were suggested, workers are now stripping off inches of the concrete structures inside. It will prepare the surface for additional reinforcement.

The pilings that support the 15-story building will also be reinforced. There are no plans to evacuate other buildings along Gulfstream or Palm Aves. as the work proceeds. The cracked slab holds up 11 stories of the structure.

Work will continue for another year, first to complete the structural reinforcements, and then to upgrade the fire alarm and sprinkling systems to current standards.

Missing link plugged        

Sarasota has a new bridge, but you can’t drive across it. It is part of a multi-use recreational trail for bicyclists, joggers, walkers. roller-bladers, unicyclists, strollers and lovers. The trail is ten feet wide, and so is the new bridge over an arm of Hudson Bayou just north of U.S. 41.

The one-piece aluminum bridge was set in place by a crane, and voila! a new connection between the eastern and western parts of the city was created. It will allow bicyclists to stay off heavily trafficked streets to access downtown and the bay.

Eventually the bridge will be a critical link in extending Sarasota County’s Legacy Trail, which now runs 12.5 miles between Clark Road and the old Venice train depot. Supporters are working to extend the trail aside the Seaboard Coastline Railroad tracks north to Payne Park in central Sarasota. The “bayou bridge” will allow cyclists to keep pedaling all the way to Sarasota Bay.

Another nightclub downtown?

Does Downtown need another nightclub? That hot potato is kicking around the city’s Development Review Committee. Duval’s New World Cafe in the 1400 block of Main would like to serve cocktails as well as beer and wine.

But to get the right liquor license, the owners need city permission to have a night club. The owners don’t plan to operate one, and are making a series of promises they will stay a restaurant. Live music only three times a year is one “proffer,” and firm closing hours are another.

City staffers fear if the owners sell the property later, the nightclub designation will be on the books and it’s Katie Bar the Door. That’s how a little jazz club on Central turned into the Ivory Lounge, the bane of lovers of downtown peace and quiet.

The DRC is telling the owners their promises will convey with the land, so any new owner doesn’t automatically get the full opportunities a “nightclub” offers.

Parking meters put up a periscope

In 2011 city commissioners installed parking meters downtown. The backlash was profound, and after 45 days they pulled the plug. Hundreds of new meters were sidelined, and there was a sucking sound as a half-million dollar hole opened up in the middle of the parking department budget.

Since commissioners abandoned paid parking, they have shuffled more than $1 million into the parking department for maintenance of two parking garages and enforcement of hourly restrictions not only downtown but also St. Armands and Southside Village (AKA the Hillview shopping and dining area). Ticket revenue continues to fall woefully short of plugging the hole.

Parking Director Mark Lyons pulled together an advisory council to do a stand-back examination of the parking situation after the about-face on meters. They’ve produced guiding principles, looked at demand and supply of parking during in-season and off-season, and drafted a strategic plan.

They’ve come full-circle in fact, and are ready to support another try at metered parking. Their carrot? Share the revenue, and use some of it for downtown beautification. Lyons fears an uphill fight. “If we don’t build on a solid foundation, we’re going to do this all over again,” he says.

Affordable North Trail housing?

It’s a dream of decades, creating housing for students and artists along the Tamiami Trail between the Ringling School of Art and Design and New College. A corridor of high-achieving academics and artists who live, work, think and create in an atmosphere of intellectual fertilization.

In reality it’s a corridor better known for hookers and pushers, with more than a few burglars and robbers for good measure. The city has tried every trick and technique it knows to uproot the bad and plant the good.

Now an out-of-town not-for-profit group is taking a swing at this seemingly intractable problem. Artspace of Minneapolis came to town in April, and is now trying to determine if the city and property owners are passionate enough to support a public-private partnership ready to push forward.

Their first question: could it work? If so, then Artspace does market studies to get a feel for demand. Even if the stars are in alignment, it could take two or three years before anything is ready for a move-in. The group will return with their initial findings this summer.

Historian wins state recognition

Jeff LaHurd will receive the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Individual Distinguished Service” Award” this month. He works for the county’s historical resources office, and on his own time has written 15 books about Sarasota’s earlier days.

LaHurd’s newest is “The Rise of Sarasota: Ken Thompson and the Rebirth of Paradise.” It follows the arc of Sarasota’s second city manager who served from 1950 to 1988 – the longest tenure of a city manager in American’s history.

The award recognizes his lifelong contribution to the pursuit and popularization of Florida history. He also won a Florida Trust award in 1992 for a video, “Sarasota: Landmarks of the Past.”

 Ringling gets “barn find”

The painting was in a Wisconsin barn, one in a pile. The owner used a crowbar to separate them as a Sarasota man looked at them one-by-one. He stopped at the portrait of John Campbell. The owner wanted $300 and received it on the spot.

Chris Brown bought what turned out to be a minor masterpiece, one he donated 20 years later to the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art. It took that long to find out what it was and who painted it.

It is the “Portrait of John Campbell, 3rd Earl of Breadalbane” painted in 1738 by portraitist Allan Ramsey. The good earl is dressed in pink and silver satin with flowing grey locks and a large gold tassel hanging between his legs.

The museum’s curators and conservation staff found the painting in good condition, only needing a surface cleaning. It will join the museum’s collection of “grand manor paintings,” which includes works by Gainsborough, Raeburn, Watson and another Ramsey.

 County picks new lobbyist

For nearly 20 years the law firm Holland & Knight was Sarasota County’s ear to the ground on Capitol Hill. But last year the county opened up the position and solicited proposals. The winner is Becker & Poliakoff, which surprisingly has a local office.

And maybe not so surprisingly, one of the lawyers in that local office is Florida Representative Greg Steube. Although the contract calls for Washington work, not Tallahassee efforts, Steube says he can help guide and explain the county’s position, and conversely interpret a little of the congressional lingo for local ears.

Expenses are limited to $10,000 per month, plus an annual $10,000 travel expense account. The deal is good for three years.

Five lobby firms responded to the county’s call for proposals. Holland & Knight placed third. They held the position since 1996.

Meanwhile the Sarasota County School Board says it too needs a set of eyes and ears in the capital, the state capital in Tallahassee. It has announced plans to hire a lobbyist too. The idea was pushed by board member Shirley Brown, a former state legislator.

The board expressed concern about the growing number and complexity of bills every year, which they said makes it difficult for board members and school staffers to stay abreast of the proposed legislation.

Heads rolling in county government

Two senior county staffers are out of work as the new county administrator begins to rearrange his government. Natural Resources Director Amy Meese was let go; she was named director in 2006. The department will be broken up and its functions distributed to other divisions. More controversial was the termination of Steve Uebelacker, the county’s ethics officer. He told a newspaper he was forced out after starting to examine allegations about County Commissioner Joe Barbetta. Both Barbetta and County Administrator Tom Harmer denied it.

Meese will be replaced by Matt Osterhoudt, a 15-year veteran of county government. Uebelacker’s job will be taken by Steve Olmstead; he has worked in county human resources for 12 years.

Harmer was picked for the administrator job after county commissioners fired Randall Reid last October without cause.

Broken building gets surgery

After standing vacant four years, the Dolphin Tower condominium facing the bayfront downtown is noisy again. It’s not the hubbub of recipe sharing, it’s the sound of high-pressure water jets demolishing concrete.

In 2010 a crack in a “transfer slab” was discovered, and the building was evacuated. For many residents, it was the last time they saw their homes. Years of legal wrangling ensued before an insurance company paid off an undisclosed amount.

After several engineering approaches were suggested, workers are now stripping off inches of the concrete structures inside. It will prepare the surface for additional reinforcement.

The pilings that support the 15-story building will also be reinforced. There are no plans to evacuate other buildings along Gulfstream or Palm Aves. as the work proceeds. The cracked slab holds up 11 stories of the structure.

Work will continue for another year, first to complete the structural reinforcements, and then to upgrade the fire alarm and sprinkling systems to current standards.

Missing link plugged        

Sarasota has a new bridge, but you can’t drive across it. It is part of a multi-use recreational trail for bicyclists, joggers, walkers. roller-bladers, unicyclists, strollers and lovers. The trail is ten feet wide, and so is the new bridge over an arm of Hudson Bayou just north of U.S. 41.

The one-piece aluminum bridge was set in place by a crane, and voila! a new connection between the eastern and western parts of the city was created. It will allow bicyclists to stay off heavily trafficked streets to access downtown and the bay.

Eventually the bridge will be a critical link in extending Sarasota County’s Legacy Trail, which now runs 12.5 miles between Clark Road and the old Venice train depot. Supporters are working to extend the trail aside the Seaboard Coastline Railroad tracks north to Payne Park in central Sarasota. The “bayou bridge” will allow cyclists to keep pedaling all the way to Sarasota Bay.

Another nightclub downtown?

Does Downtown need another nightclub? That hot potato is kicking around the city’s Development Review Committee. Duval’s New World Cafe in the 1400 block of Main would like to serve cocktails as well as beer and wine.

But to get the right liquor license, the owners need city permission to have a night club. The owners don’t plan to operate one, and are making a series of promises they will stay a restaurant. Live music only three times a year is one “proffer,” and firm closing hours are another.

City staffers fear if the owners sell the property later, the nightclub designation will be on the books and it’s Katie Bar the Door. That’s how a little jazz club on Central turned into the Ivory Lounge, the bane of lovers of downtown peace and quiet.

The DRC is telling the owners their promises will convey with the land, so any new owner doesn’t automatically get the full opportunities a “nightclub” offers.

Parking meters put up a periscope

In 2011 city commissioners installed parking meters downtown. The backlash was profound, and after 45 days they pulled the plug. Hundreds of new meters were sidelined, and there was a sucking sound as a half-million dollar hole opened up in the middle of the parking department budget.

Since commissioners abandoned paid parking, they have shuffled more than $1 million into the parking department for maintenance of two parking garages and enforcement of hourly restrictions not only downtown but also St. Armands and Southside Village (AKA the Hillview shopping and dining area). Ticket revenue continues to fall woefully short of plugging the hole.

Parking Director Mark Lyons pulled together an advisory council to do a stand-back examination of the parking situation after the about-face on meters. They’ve produced guiding principles, looked at demand and supply of parking during in-season and off-season, and drafted a strategic plan.

They’ve come full-circle in fact, and are ready to support another try at metered parking. Their carrot? Share the revenue, and use some of it for downtown beautification. Lyons fears an uphill fight. “If we don’t build on a solid foundation, we’re going to do this all over again,” he says.

Affordable North Trail housing?

It’s a dream of decades, creating housing for students and artists along the Tamiami Trail between the Ringling School of Art and Design and New College. A corridor of high-achieving academics and artists who live, work, think and create in an atmosphere of intellectual fertilization.

In reality it’s a corridor better known for hookers and pushers, with more than a few burglars and robbers for good measure. The city has tried every trick and technique it knows to uproot the bad and plant the good.

Now an out-of-town not-for-profit group is taking a swing at this seemingly intractable problem. Artspace of Minneapolis came to town in April, and is now trying to determine if the city and property owners are passionate enough to support a public-private partnership ready to push forward.

Their first question: could it work? If so, then Artspace does market studies to get a feel for demand. Even if the stars are in alignment, it could take two or three years before anything is ready for a move-in. The group will return with their initial findings this summer.

Historian wins state recognition

Jeff LaHurd will receive the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Individual Distinguished Service” Award” this month. He works for the county’s historical resources office, and on his own time has written 15 books about Sarasota’s earlier days.

 LaHurd’s newest is “The Rise of Sarasota: Ken Thompson and the Rebirth of Paradise.” It follows the arc of Sarasota’s second city manager who served from 1950 to 1988 – the longest tenure of a city manager in American’s history.

The award recognizes his lifelong contribution to the pursuit and popularization of Florida history. He also won a Florida Trust award in 1992 for a video, “Sarasota: Landmarks of the Past.”

Ringling gets “barn find”

The painting was in a Wisconsin barn, one in a pile. The owner used a crowbar to separate them as a Sarasota man looked at them one-by-one. He stopped at the portrait of John Campbell. The owner wanted $300 and received it on the spot.

Chris Brown bought what turned out to be a minor masterpiece, one he donated 20 years later to the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art. It took that long to find out what it was and who painted it.

It is the “Portrait of John Campbell, 3rd Earl of Breadalbane” painted in 1738 by portraitist Allan Ramsey. The good earl is dressed in pink and silver satin with flowing grey locks and a large gold tassel hanging between his legs.

The museum’s curators and conservation staff found the painting in good condition, only needing a surface cleaning. It will join the museum’s collection of “grand manor paintings,” which includes works by Gainsborough, Raeburn, Watson and another Ramsey.