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Up & Down the Trail

Sarasota news

by Stan Zimmerman

City commissioners to duke it out 

What looked like a lead-pipe cinch turned into a battle royale as a deadline approached. Sarasota City Commissioner Paul Caragiulo months ago announced he was running for the county commission seat coming open as Nora Patterson was term-limited.

Opposing him was Pete Theisen, who ran unsuccessfully three times in the past six years for a city commission seat, and then decided to try for Patterson’s job. Caragiulo raised more than $23,000 and got the backing of most county Republican heavyweights.

But Caragiulo’s dreams of an easy victory vanished when another city commissioner – ex-sheriff’s deputy Shannon Snyder – jumped into the race. If Theisen draws off enough votes in the first primary, he could force a real rarity in Sarasota political circles – a Republican primary runoff. So far, no Democrat is in the race to take advantage of the turmoil in the county’s dominant political party.

August 26 is the primary election day. No runoff is scheduled now, of course. But if Theisen syphons off enough votes to prevent anybody form getting 50 percent-plus-one, the run-off couldn’t be held until early October.

A pair of political vacancies

Under Florida’s “resign-to-run law,” both Caragiulo and Snyder have to file letters of resignation in order to qualify for their bids to get on the county commission. Their date of resignation is Nov. 18, the day the winner is sworn into their commission position.

While means within 21 days of that date, the Sarasota City Commission – with only three members at that point – will pick two people to serve out the four months remaining in both Caragiulo and Snyder’s terms. Their terms of appointment will end in March following regular city elections. The appointees may or may not run to keep their new jobs.

Filling two vacancies at the same time has never happened in the city’s history. However there is a history of filling solitary vacancies. Al Hogle was picked to replace – yes, it’s true – Nora Patterson when she was elected for the first time to the Saraosta County Commission in 1998. Hogle had retired after a 28-year career with the city police department, rising to the rank of captain. He severed the rump term and then won the seat outright in March 1999.

Sewer project leaps out of the ground 

After years of wrangling it appears the City of Sarasota has agreed how to fix the star-crossed sewer lift station at U.S. 41 and U.S. 301, the infamous Lift Station 87. Work stopped when the previous design wasn’t working. Later study indicated the old plan would have drilled a hole under (or maybe through) the concrete supports of the Osprey Avenue bridge over Hudson Bayou.

Another design engineering firm was hired when the original walked off the job. The new designers tried to develop a scheme to use the old design, but came back to recommend the city start over.

The old design called for installing all the equipment underground in concrete “silos” under Lukewood Park. But the new team found the storm surge from a category two hurricane could crush the lids on at least one of the silos, and put the system out of operation for months. Since LS 87 will handle sewage from one-third of the city and Sarasota Memorial Hospital, the new designers suggested an above-ground facility.

The silos will be filled in (one will serve as a diesel fuel tank for emergency generators), and a 34-foot building erected, capable of withstanding a cat-three hurricane. The price tag is now about triple the original $9 million bid.

The cranes are back

After a nearly eight-year absence, construction cranes have returned to town. Two downtown high-rises are going up, one a hotel and the other a condominium. And a combined condo-hotel complex at Gulfstream Avenue and U.S. 41 has all the paperwork in hand to get started to.

Meanwhile the city is on the verge of approving a triple-density plan for the Rosemary District across Fruitville Road from downtown. It needs only one more public hearing before the city commission can sign off and sent the comprehensive plan amendment to Tallahassee for final approval. Because city commissioners told staff to fast-track the idea, their support is likely.

A developer wants to build a 450-unit apartment complex.

Another plan to build an 800-unit apartment complex across Fruitville from the eastern end of Main Street is also being aired. Harvey Vengroff owns the old Stottlemeyer and Shoemaker lumber yard, but needs a quadruple-density boost to make the plans financially feasible.

Meanwhile building permits – in number and value – are rapidly approaching levels last seen during the go-go 2000’s. This time much of the money appears to be private funding and not bank loans.