June 24, 2016 Edition

With the Sheriff’s Office reporting overall crime down 49 percent since 2008, the agency needs more deputies out east to deal with housing and traffic growth

Sheriff Tom Knight and his staff also update the County Commission on recruitment and new technology during their budget presentation

With the most serious types of crime down 42.5 percent from 2008 through 2015 — and overall crime down 49 percent for that period — Sheriff Tom Knight explained to the Sarasota County Commission this week that he and his staff continue to focus on hiring the best persons for positions, as well as new technology. (Read more »)


Ordinance banning retail pet sales will not be amended, County Commission decides on 3-2 vote

Commissioner Christine Robinson had argued for changes to protect breeders and veterinarians

Mirroring the votes they cast on Jan. 27, the Sarasota County Commission this week refused to begin a process that could lead to amending the ordinance it passed in January to prohibit sales of dogs and cats from retail establishments. (Read more »)


Denial of Woman’s Exchange building permit memorialized by the City Commission on a 3-2 vote

City attorney wins board’s approval to work with staff on potential Zoning Code amendments to enable the nonprofit to pursue an alternate means of expansion

Just before the Sarasota City Commission voted 3-2 on June 20 to memorialize its April 11 vote denying a permit for a Woman’s Exchange’s addition with a loading zone on Rawls Avenue, the attorney for the nonprofit organization warned the board members that they would be putting city staff in “a horrible position” if they approved the document. (Read more »)


County Commission refuses to provide funding for Robert L. Taylor Community Complex in north Sarasota

Board members agree that it would set a ‘dangerous precedent’ of supporting municipal park facilities

After Sarasota County Commissioner Carolyn Mason warned of the “dangerous precedent” it would set if the county committed General Fund dollars to municipal park facilities, she won unanimous support from her colleagues on June 21 to deny a request from the City of Sarasota for the county to commit $984,000 to the annual budget of the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex in north Sarasota. (Read more »)


County factoring higher health insurance costs and state retirement system payments into FY 2017 budget

Although latest projections show a $6.5-million shortfall in FY18, staff feels it can eliminate that, County Commission hears

Add in extra revenue, thanks to property values going up a projected 7.7 percent. Subtract higher expenses for the county’s constitutional officers — such as the sheriff. Then figure in a health insurance hike of $3.7 million (though only $1 million of that will come out of the General Fund), plus $2.2 million in merit pay increases and $402,000 more in Florida Retirement System payments. Those factors and others leave the General Fund budget projection for Sarasota County’s 2017 fiscal year at $251,460,627, county staff showed the County Commission during a June 22 budget workshop. (Read more »)


Manasota Key residents receiving help for beach erosion problems while Sarasota County staff researches solutions for the long term

Property owners plead for fast permitting to deal with damage wreaked by Tropical Storm Colin

Seven people dealing with structural damage at their Manasota Key homes as a result of Tropical Storm Colin’s chewing up their beach asked the Sarasota County Commission for help — and fast — on June 21. (Read more »)


Benson appointed to fill unexpired Planning Commission term

Former School Board member is a real estate broker in Venice

With a unanimous vote this week, the Sarasota County Commission appointed former Sarasota County School Board member Laura Benson to the Planning Commission, to serve out the unexpired term of Michael Beaumier. (Read more »)


Arts and cultural organizations awarded close to $2 million in grants

Siesta Key’s Crystal Classic will benefit from a first-time award

Thanks to a unanimous vote of the Sarasota County Commission on June 21, 33 arts and cultural organizations in the county will receive a total of 36 grants adding up to $1,931,737 for the 2017 fiscal year. (Read more »)


Evans confirmed as assistant Sarasota County administrator

He will relocate from Haines City in August to replace Lee Ann Lowery

“Welcome to paradise,” Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson told Jonathan Evans, city manager of Haines City, just before the commission voted unanimously during its June 21 regular meeting to confirm County Administrator Tom Harmer’s hiring of Evans as an assistant county administrator. (Read more »)


Siesta Seen

SKA board still working out details of pilot trash collection program at Access 7; an SKA member’s holiday garbage pickup initiative needs volunteers; the Chamber is still welcoming sponsorships for the July Fourth fireworks show; Village Café offers an incentive to blood donors for June 26; and the USACE/City of Sarasota seagrass mitigation plan for the Lido project is delayed again

For quite some time, members of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) have been working on a means of encouraging people to throw away garbage they accumulate on Siesta Public Beach. Board member Joe Volpe told The Sarasota News Leader this week that the organization is very close to getting the necessary Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department approval for a trial program at Beach Access 7. (Read more »)


Documentary on First Amendment to be shown for free on July 9

Sarasota-Manatee Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State hosting event at Sarasota church

The public is invited to the presentation of the documentary First Amendment Project, which will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on July 9 at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Fruitville Road in Sarasota. (Read more »)


Bird Key bridge seawalls to be repaired

Pheasant Drive work first on the list, with late June start anticipated

The seawalls on Bird Key’s four bridges will be the focus of safety improvements this year, Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin has announced. No road closures are expected as the work is undertaken. (Read more »)


All lanes open on Coon Key Bridge through July Fourth holiday

FDOT construction project to begin again on July 5

The Coon Key Bridge on State Road 789 will have all lanes open through July 4, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has announced. One westbound lane of the structure — which is part of a primary route to St. Armand’s Key — had been closed since April 4, as a crew has worked to demolish and replace two concrete spans on the bridge. That side of the structure also has been closed to pedestrians and bicyclists. (Read more »)


Sheriff’s Office warning the public about new reports of ‘IRS Scam’

Anyone who gets a suspicious phone call is asked to report it to the IRS

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office once again is warning the public to be cautious about telephone scams. This time, concern is about one commonly known as the “IRS Scam,” a news release says. (Read more »)


New playground-type equipment installed in Gillespie Park

Selby Foundation provides $50,000 grant for structures

Children have another fun way to spend their time in Gillespie Park, Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin has announced: A new 24-foot-tall climbing structure was recently placed there for the enjoyment of youngsters ages 5 to 12, Barwin wrote in his June 17 newsletter. (Read more »)


Helmuth named athletic director at Booker High School in Sarasota

Schools’ head boys’ basketball coach moved into the position immediately

Booker High School has announced that its new athletic director will be Phil Helmuth, the school’s head boys’ varsity basketball coach. The appointment is effective immediately, according to a Sarasota County School District news release. (Read more »)