By Rachel Hackney/Bob Stein
SKA membership update
During the April 6 SKA meeting, President Harold Ashby reported that membership already was 27% ahead of the total for last year.
Moreover, he continued, the SKA has 432 new members — people who never had been associated with the nonprofit in the past. “That’s a lot,” he pointed out. “But we know we have to earn our members.”
Referencing County Commissioner Mike Moran’s remarks that evening as a guest of the organization, Ashby told the attendees that the SKA’s board members are their conduits to the county’s elected officials. “We’re your voice [but] you’ve got to be a member to get your voice heard.”
He noted that membership applications were available at the back of the room.
Furthermore, Ashby said, “We’re going to survey our membership this year … on several targeted points.” The directors will collect all the information and publish it in a format that they will make available to the news media, he continued. “And we’re going to use it in our discussions with the commissioners.”
When an audience member asked how one gets to be an SKA director, Ashby replied, “Tell us you want to be on the board.” He added that applications are available through the nonprofit’s website. Whenever the board members receive one, Ashby continued, they review the material and then schedules interviews with the person. “That’s how I got on the board,” he pointed out.
As for emailing comments or questions to the SKA directors: Ashby said the address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Secretary Joyce Kouba checks the emails that come in, Ashby added, and then she sends them to the appropriate board member for a response. “She’s the ‘decider,’” he joked, referencing a remark President George W. Bush made when he was president.
During their regular meeting on April 3, the county commissioners took one more step — albeit a smaller one than those residents soon will be observing — toward the decommissioning of the Siesta Key Wastewater Treatment Plant.
With the unanimous approval of its Consent Agenda of routine business items, the board approved a temporary easement to Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) to provide overhead electrical service during the transformation of the wastewater plant into the Siesta Key Master Pump Station.
After FPL has been able to schedule its work on a new electrical feed, an April 3 county staff memo said, “a permanent easement will be presented to the [commissioners] for their approval to meet the long-term needs of FPL and [the county’s] Public Utilities [Department].”
The memo pointed out that the county acquired the Siesta Key Utility Authority wastewater system in 2006 and that the plant — which stands next to the Siesta Isles neighborhood — is under a Florida Department of Environmental Protection consent order to be decommissioned.
After the pump station has been completed — which is scheduled for the end of this year — it will send about 1.5 million gallons of wastewater per day from Siesta Key to two of the county’s water reclamation facilities on the mainland, the memo added.
Dr. Koster retiring
Patients of long-time Siesta dentist Dr. Erwin K. Koster have been notified that he is retiring and turning over his practice to Dr. David C. Schirmer.
Koster recently sent a letter to patients, explaining, “As you probably know I have been having some health issues. So it is with mixed emotions that I must retire from dentistry.”
Schirmer, the letter says, is a native of western New York; he is an honors graduate of the Georgetown University School of Dentistry. Furthermore, the letter notes, Schirmer “has received the three highest honorary awards that a dentist can receive from his colleagues: Fellowships in the American College of Dentists, the International College of Dentists, and the Pierre Fauchard Academy.”
The dental practice is located at 5136 Ocean Blvd. in Siesta Village.
Free Donut or coffee
Make sure to stop in at the new Donut Experiment location in the Village and treat yourself to a free donut or coffee while you are in the Siesta Key Village. Every donut is made fresh. Just redeem the coupon located on page 10 of this edition. The Donut Experiment is located at 217 Avenida Madera next to Solorzano’s Pizzeria.
Vacation Bible School
This year, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church located on Siesta Key is hosting Vacation Bible School. The program is entitled “Maker Fun Factor—Created by God and Built for a Purpose.” It is scheduled to run from Monday, June 12th through Friday, June 16th. Attendance will be limited. The cost is $30 for the first child and $25 for each additional child. If you would like your child or children to participate, please call Lynda Fischer to register as soon as possible. Lynda is also in need of volunteers to assist the program. If anyone reading would like to help sponsor a child for Vacation Bible School, we would be very grateful. Lynda may be contacted at 941-349-4174 ext. 208.
Farmers Market TUP renewal
In what practically has become an annual ritual, the Siesta Key Farmers’ Market recently won the annual renewal of its county Temporary Use Permit (TUP), so it can continue operating in Davidson Plaza.
The latest County Commission vote came on March 22, after a brief presentation by county Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson. The original vote on the TUP was recorded on July 23, 2008.
A March 22 memo to the County Commission says Bryan Eible — who founded the market — submitted the application to obtain the renewal of the permit for the market to operate on Sundays for another year. “There have been no complaints against the [farmers’] market since its inception,” the memo notes, “and the community has continued to generally support the farmers’ market.”
‘Breeze’-ing right along
During the April 3 County Commission meeting, Commissioner Mike Moran took a few moments to congratulate Rocky Burke, director of Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT), and Burke’s team for “just an amazing event for the trolley” on Siesta Key.
Moran was referring to the March 20 ribbon cutting that launched the Siesta Key Breeze, during which he and Commissioner Alan Maio participated.
The Breeze even won a mention during the April 3 Sarasota City Commission meeting, with Commissioner Liz Alpert pointing out “how much more fun” it is to ride in an open-air vehicle of that type, and how such a mass transit service is far more likely to win fans.
Sarasota County staff also has a promo about the trolley — featuring footage from the March 20 event — airing on its government access TV channel.
By the way, during that March 20 ceremony, Maio joked that he and commission Chair Paul Caragiulo had lobbied hard for the trolley to be painted red, white and green, as both he and Caragiulo have Italian ancestry. Nonetheless, Maio acknowledged, the bright orange shade associated with the Florida Gators won out.
Great American Cleanup accomplishments
Siesta resident Michael Shay organized a group of 20 volunteers on March 25 to clean up three areas on the island during the first of two events scheduled this spring under the auspices of the Great American Cleanup.
Six of Shay’s volunteers worked at the beach, he pointed out, noting in an email, “The County just recently received a grant to deal with cigarette butts at the beach. They had asked me and my group to help them do a “butt count” (no pun intended) around the pavilions. We spent 2 hours and picked up a total of 2981 cigarette butts.”
In response to a question about the grant, county spokesman Drew Winchester pointed out in an April 4 email that Keep Sarasota County Beautiful was one of several communities to receive a $5,000 grant through a Keep American Beautiful initiative.
In an April 4 press release, Keep America Beautiful announced that communities that implemented its Cigarette Litter Prevention Program in 2016 achieved a 60% reduction in such trash, a 10% increase over the results of its 2015 program.
As a result, Keep America Beautiful has announced the total award of nearly $300,000 to 37 organizations in an effort to achieve even better progress this year.
“We are increasingly optimistic about ending cigarette butt litter in America,” said Keep America Beautiful Chief Operating Officer Becky Lyons in the news release. “Keep America Beautiful and our Cigarette Litter Prevention Program partners are dedicated to educating consumers on the hazards of litter and providing the tools to change their behavior,” she continued. “Recent cigarette litter reduction numbers show we are moving in the right direction towards making the littering of cigarette butts — and littering in general — socially unacceptable in our country.”
The release adds, “Since its establishment, the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program has consistently cut cigarette butt litter by approximately half based on local measurements taken in the first four months to six months after program implementation. Survey results also demonstrate that as communities continue to implement and monitor the program those reductions are sustained or even increased over time. Keep America Beautiful has distributed nearly $3 million in grant funding since 2006 to support local implementation of the program in more than 1,700 communities nationwide,” the release points out.
As for the other cleanup efforts on March 25: In his note to SNL, Shay added, “The Bay Island Siesta Association (BISA) cleaned the north end of Higel [Avenue]” and Siesta Drive, while another group “cleaned the length of Ocean Blvd!”
An Avenida Milano stop sign
As part of the County Commission’s approval of its Consent Agenda of routine business items on March 21, it adopted a resolution to install a one-way stop sign on Avenida Milano at the intersection of Calle Minorga.
The sign has been installed, county spokesman Drew Winchester told SNL.
The initiative came in response to a petition that the county’s Traffic Advisory Council (TAC) addressed on Dec. 12, 2016; the members recommended the County Commission approve the request.
The Jan. 15, 2016 petition, submitted to the TAC by Kim Langedyk — who listed a Calle Minorga address — says, “I work on Calle Minorga and have nearly been hit multiple times by drivers failing to stop at [the Avenida Milano] intersection. It should be clear that drivers turning onto Calle Minorga should yield to oncoming traffic, but evidently, it isn’t. A stop sign would make it more obvious.”
Altogether, 15 people — including Langedyk — signed the petition. Among them was Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Chair Mark Smith, whose firm, Smith Architects, is located at 5032 Calle Minorga.
As a staff memo to the County Commission explained, Avenida Milano is a local road with two 14-foot-wide travel lanes and no sidewalks or bike lanes. On-street parking is allowed on both sides.
Calle Minorga, the memo continued, is a local road with two 10-foot-wide travel lanes — again, with no sidewalks or bicycle lanes.
The speed limit on both roads is 30 mph, the memo added.
“The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) provides guidelines for placing stop signs at the intersection of two local roads,” the memo says. “Stop signs should be considered when engineering judgment determines a restricted view exists that requires road users to stop to adequately observe conflicting traffic on a through street,” it notes.
Avenida Milano, the memo continues, has an average daily traffic count of 468 vehicles, while Calle Minorga’s count is 308. “According to the County’s crash database, one crash has occurred at the subject intersection within the last three years. Staff has determined that eastbound vehicles should stop to adequately observe traffic on Calle Minorga,” the release points out. “A stop sign in this location would reinforce driver expectations and enhance the safety of the intersection,” it adds.
During the TAC meeting, the memo pointed out, “two citizens spoke in favor of [the request for the stop sign].”
No to hotels
During its March meeting, the Board of Directors of the Siesta Key Condominium Council “went on record as being against any changes to the Sarasota County Codes that would allow hotel construction on Siesta Key that does not meet the current codes for density and height,” the organization announced.
The statement was signed by Condo Council President Frank Jurenka.
A news release said the council recently received information from one of its members — the Gulf and Bay Club — that the Gulf and Bay board had passed such a resolution and was asking the Condo Council board to take similar action. Furthermore, the news release noted, the Gulf and Bay Club board had asked that the council “take steps to advise other Condo Association members [of the action], thereby raising awareness and consolidation of efforts to thwart these changes.”
The Gulf and Bay Club resolution was approved during its association’s March 23 board meeting, the release noted.
During the Jan. 17 meeting of the Condo Council, residents raised objections to a proposed county Comprehensive Plan amendment that would allow hotels to be built in districts zoned Commercial General on Siesta Key.
SNL is not aware of any further action having been taken on that proposal since a December 2016 workshop was held on the issue.
The Condo Council news release also pointed out that the Gulf and Bay board members planned to meet with the county commissioners to express their opposition to the proposed change in the Comprehensive Plan and that they were requesting owners of condos in their complex who are registered Florida voters to write or email their views on the matter to the county commissioners.
CodeRed sign-ups encouraged
Sarasota County staff is encouraging property owners to sign up for the free CodeRED alert notification system, which provides phone and text message alerts to property owners about important issues in their neighborhoods.
"Getting accurate and fast information on an event in your neighborhood can save you time, money and possibly even your life," said Paula Parsons Grubb of Sarasota County Public Utilities in a news release. "The free CodeRED system can alert you to evacuations, severe weather warnings, water and sewer service interruptions, road closures, Amber Alerts and more,” she added in the release.
“Sarasota County does not share [registration] information with private third-party vendors,” the release pointed out.
During the SKA’s March 4 Annual Breakfast Meeting, Vice President Catherine Luckner strongly encouraged members to sign up for CodeRed. In the aftermath of county staff’s discharge into the Grand Canal of 3.3 million gallons of partially treated wastewater from the Siesta Key plant during torrential rains associated with then-Tropical Storm Hermine in late August 2016, residents’ ire was one factor in county staff’s decision to use CodeRed for environmental alerts, Luckner pointed out. (State guidelines allow such discharges in emergency situations when heavy rain or another problem might cause the overflow of untreated sewage from a wastewater plant into a body of water. However, at the time of the Siesta incident, Sarasota County had no policy calling for notice to be provided to the public, other than erection of signage at the Grand Canal.)
For more information about the system, call the county Contact Center at 861-5000 or visit www.scgov.net. Anyone may sign up for the service through a link listed under the Emergency Services tab, the release notes.