Recycling finally coming to Siesta Village; eminent domain foreseen as part of resolution for Midnight Pass Road flooding; new signage in gazebo to help prevent unwelcome behavior; south Siesta resident offers an alert about renourishment assessments; and law enforcement responds to Village incident
For years, Michael Shay has been yearning to see recycling containers installed in Siesta Village.
As maintenance manager for the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., he has spent considerable time scouting out locations where people routinely throw cans and water bottles into the garbage. Yet, because the contract the County Commission approved with Buccaneer Landscape Management in August 2014 included no provision for recycling, Shay learned that recycling could not be added to the firm’s responsibilities. The Maintenance Corp. — which supervises and pays for the Village upkeep through an assessment on property owners — would have to wait until that contract ended and ask to get recycling included in the new one.
Finally, with county Procurement Department staff working on a new vendor contract — recycling was ready to begin this week in Siesta Village.
The bins — clearly marked for bottles and cans — will be placed at the Daiquiri Deck, Gilligan’s Island Bar, The Beach Club, Davidson’s and the gazebo, Shay told The Sarasota News Leader. They will stand next to the regular garbage containers, he noted.
“We’re starting with five,” he said. “The intent is if it goes well … and we find other areas [where they should be installed], we’ll get more pails.”
The contract does not specify a finite number, he added.
“If we find a pail is completely empty” over time, he noted, and recyclables appear to be plentiful in a garbage can at another location, then staff has the flexibility to move one of the recycling bins to a different spot.
Staff told him to expect the delivery of the first five bins on Oct. 4. They will be “fully assembled,” Shay said. Staff members planned to notify him about the time they expected to arrive at the Village, he added, so he could assist in making certain the containers are installed in the designated spots.
During the quarterly meeting of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce held in August , Shay reported, “The containers are going to be very standard, labeled recycling containers,” with signage stating they are for bottles and cans. They will have openings designed to prevent other types of items from being deposited in them, he noted, such as pizza boxes. “Though I guarantee you someone will try [to put a pizza box in one] and someone will get it done.”
As he listed the locations, he said that in his research, he found “a gazillion [water] bottles [in the garbage can] outside The Beach Club,” which made that seem an excellent location for one recycling bin.
He asked the Chamber for help in publicizing the recycling initiative, pointing out that education will be a key to the program’s success. Lisa Cece, the county’s special district coordinator, who works with the Maintenance Corp., pointed out that the county has educational posters that could be used, as well.
Information about the program could be added to the Chamber website, Chair Mark Smith responded.
“No question that you’re still going to have [recyclable goods] in the trash,” Shay said in the interview this week with the News Leader. That will be no different, he added, than finding trash on the ground in spite of the fact that garbage cans are located in many Village locations.
The only unresolved issue when Shay spoke with the News Leader on Oct. 2 related to collection of the materials. Waste Management picks up the garbage in the Village, he pointed out. However, county staff has told him that he needs to call each of the five firms approved by the county for recycling contracts and obtain information from the companies to assist county staff in settling on which will handle the Village materials. The plan is for a company to pick up the recyclables from the enclosure in the Municipal Parking Lot, where the garbage is placed for Waste Management.
The vendor that ultimately will be awarded the new Village custodial contract will collect all the recyclables from the containers in the Village and then place the materials in bags for storage in two 96-gallon bins in the enclosure in the parking lot, he explained.
If the recycling initiative becomes really popular in the Village, Shay added, it might be necessary to find another location that would be able to accommodate more materials between collections than the two 96-gallon bins can hold. “We have to keep an eye on that.”
‘Property acquisition’ one facet of resolving flooding
Midnight Pass flooding was in the proverbial spotlight on Sept. 26, as the Sarasota County commissioners debated the hiring of consultants to assist with stormwater projects. As discussion ensued, it finally became clear that county staff feels the use of eminent domain in obtaining land for a Siesta project ultimately may be necessary.
The agenda item called for the County Commission to review the proposed ranking of projects for which the county will seek funding from the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD).
In reading through the list staff had provided to the board, Chair Paul Caragiulo noted the Midnight Pass Road item and asked, “This is a study to do a project, right?”
Ben Quartermaine, interim stormwater utility manager for the county, responded that the item proposed for ranking as No. 4 out of seven on the county list does not include the construction phase. The total expense would be $300,000, the list said, with the funding split 50/50 between the county and SWFWMD — if the board of the water management district agrees to the grant.
“I know we have tried mightily several times to fix a lot of [the problems on Midnight Pass Road],” Commissioner Alan Maio said, “and we’ve been somewhat successful.” However, the average “layman out there [on Siesta Key],” Maio continued, does not understand the complexity of the potential solutions. “People say, ‘Pipe the water to the [Gulf].’ It’s just not that easy. The water has to be contained, attenuated, treated. It’s just not that easy,” Maio stressed.
Part of the difficulty in dealing with the Midnight Pass Road issues, Quartermaine responded, “is that we are going to have to condemn … to acquire property.” Therefore, part of the study for which staff has proposed seeking SWFMD funding assistance would help identify the most appropriate solution. “So when we do have to go in front of a judge and condemn, we have the backup to say, ‘This is the most cost-effective project,’” Quartermaine added.
“I’ve looked at the area ad nauseam,” Quartermaine continued. “There’s just no route from Midnight Pass to the bay or to the Heron’s Lagoon without acquiring some property.” (Heron Lagoon is an enclosed body of water south of Point of Rocks.)
Flashing a bit of his well-known sense of humor, Maio told Quartermaine, “What you’ve achieved there is a massive shift.”
Earlier, Caragiulo had talked of the increasing numbers of emails he has received from constituents about flooding issues since he has been on the board. Maio was referring to the fact that the Midnight Pass Road discussion was going to lead to many people contacting him instead of Caragiulo, as Maio represents Siesta Key as part of his District 4 territory.
As explained in the detailed project information in the SWFWMD grant application, the Midnight Pass Road project “will develop a stormwater management plan to address the coastal, barrier island flooding on Midnight Pass Road and meet the adopted flood protection level of service for the evacuation route.” Midnight Pass Road from the Stickney Point Road bridge to the road’s southern terminus — a distance of approximately 3 miles — was designed as an evacuation route, the application adds, but the road has been reconstructed over the past 80-plus years without a “cohesive, engineered stormwater management system” that can handle the drainage from adjacent lands.
“Redevelopment over the past 20 years,” the report continues, has increased the stormwater runoff volume directed to and stored in the Midnight Pass Road right of way “to the extent that the roadway is not passable during [the] more frequent rainfall events.”
The application points out that the county’s flood protection level of service for evacuation routes calls for no water to stand on a roadway during a 24-hour rainfall event that produces a level of flooding expected once every 100 years.
The project staff envisions for the road will evaluate alternatives such as pumping stations; easement acquisitions, so construction could be undertaken over land; “potential land acquisitions for stormwater runoff storage with potential reuse opportunities; potential land acquisitions for stormwater treatment; modification to the existing Midnight Pass Road right-of-way for [a] stormwater management system”; and horizontal and vertical alignment changes to the road.
Helping resolve issues at the gazebo
Regular readers know that concerns have been raised over the past year about homeless people routinely making themselves home — and piling up their belongings — in the Village gazebo. Sheriff’s Office personnel — especially Lt. Donny Kennard — have explained that officers treat every person in the same manner. Although members of the public have been intimidated by homeless individuals in the Village, no one can be arrested, Kennard has pointed out, unless a homeless person has committed a crime.
However, since April, Sarasota County staff has been working in earnest on a new Quality of Life Ordinance that has been crafted to help resolve issues with homelessness, including sleeping in public places and storing personal items in public areas. The County Commission will hold a hearing on that ordinance on Oct. 11.
In response to ongoing concerns about gazebo occupants,
Lisa Cece, special district coordinator in the county’s Public Works Transportation Division, wrote an email to Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. representatives on Sept. 29 that provided the following information:
“After requests for posting of signage at the Gazebo, I have worked with Facilities and Parks and Recreation staff to get approval to post the attached sign.”
That sign lists 11 activities that are prohibited by Chapter 90 of the county’s Code of Ordinances. Among them are “Disruptive or unsafe behavior, including conduct which intentionally interferes with employees in the performance of their duties or intentionally interferes with the proper use of the County facility by others,” “Unauthorized leaving or storing of personal property,” “Selling or distributing any alcoholic beverage, except as allowed by a permit, at an approved event,” and “Use of insulting or fighting words which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”
Cece added in her email, “Once posted, the rules provide enforceability by law enforcement.” She noted that any derelict or abandoned property will be picked up and stored by county staff. “Anyone seeking to get their items returned may contact the Sarasota County Contact Center at 861-5000 for instructions and location.”
Moreover, Cece pointed out, “Anyone remaining in the site more than a reasonable period of time (daytime) could receive a Trespass warning by the Sheriff, upon request by County staff. If there is an altercation, arrests can be made, or if refusal to leave and a Trespass violation is issued, the person will not be able to return to the site for a period of one year.”
Village Maintenance Manager Michael Shay notified the News Leader that the sign went up shortly after 5 p.m. on Oct. 3: “Sergeant [Jason] Mruczek and his Deputies were in the gazebo area on another matter, so I alerted him the sign is up, which adds enforceability of the posted rules.”
Shay stressed that if a deputy issues a trespass notice against someone for violation of the conduct rules in the gazebo, that person will be banned from the gazebo for a year.
Warning about South Siesta Renourishment assessments
A News Leader reader sent an email on Sept. 29, saying, “We have found the proposed south Siesta Key beach assessments in the 2018 Notice of Proposed Property Taxes to be varying from 0 to $1700 for the same units in our complex.”
In the spring of 2016, the county completed its second renourishment of an approximately 2-mile stretch of beach on south Siesta Key, including the area at Turtle Park. As with the first renourishment — in 2007 — property owners in the affected area are being assessed a portion of the expense.
The reader continued, “We have contacted the County and apparently there was a problem in the computer calculation.” County staff assured the reader that the correct assessment figures would be on the property tax bills mailed in November. However, the reader warned that anyone being assessed for the South Siesta Renourishment Project should be vigilant in checking the tax bill.
The reader also pointed out that owners of units on the beach side of one condominium complex on south Siesta are being billed higher assessments than owners on the bay side, even though the residents of that complex share the beach.
The News Leader asked county staff this week for details about the reader’s comments. On Oct. 3, Laird Wreford, the county’s coastal initiatives manager, responded:
First, he wrote, “Due to a computer sorting error, some of the TRIM [Truth in Millage] notices had inaccurate amounts for the South Siesta Key Beach Restoration assessments. Of the 474 parcels in the assessment district, 195 were inaccurate. Fortunately, this error was discovered prior to the final tax bills [being printed], so those bills will be correct when mailed out in late October. Staff is in the process of sending notifications to the 195 parcel owners, providing them with the correct information.”
Regarding the differences in the assessments for residents of the condo complex, Wreford continued, “The reader is referring to the Bay Tree Club residents. That was a unique situation, where the condo property runs from gulf to bay. There is one building that is gulf front (40 units), and two buildings that are bay front (80 units). It was decided from the first nourishment (and carried forward for the second) that the total assessment for the parcel would be split among the condo owners with the gulf front owners paying twice the assessment of the bay front owners. That split was based on the findings of the property appraisal expert hired by the County to certify the benefits to the assessment district parcels.”
The convergence of ‘cop cars’
After a reader notified the News Leader on Oct. 3 about a number of Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department vehicles on Canal Road near the Beach Bazaar late that afternoon, the News Leader contacted Sgt. Jason Mruczek, leader of the Sheriff’s Office substation on the Key.
“[I]t it looked like a bigger production than it actually was,” he responded in an email. Officers had recovered a stolen vehicle, he wrote, and the driver had a suspended license. The driver had to be transported to the hospital for a medical issue, too, Mruczek added.